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The Pecos Eagles will still have to win at least a couple of games on
the road to end their five-year post-season drought, but tonight,
they'll try and maintain their perfect home record and hold onto a share
of second place in the District 4-4A standings, when they host the San
Angelo Lake View Chiefs in a 7:30 p.m. game.
The Eagles and Chiefs are both tied for second one week into the
district race, with 1-1 records. Pecos won their opener at home a week
ago, 11-2 over San Angelo Lake View, while dropping their road opener
last Thursday by an 8-2 margin at Andrews. It left Pecos with a 10-5
Lake View got to 1-1 by doing the reverse. The Chiefs won on the road to
open district, 9-2 at Big Spring, then lost at home this past Saturday
by a 5-1 score to Fort Stockton, leaving San Angelo with a 6-10 mark.
While these teams have met for years at the Little League and Senior
League level, with Pecos coming out on top most of the time, in high
school the rivalry has bee dominated by the Chiefs for the past
half-decade. Since 1992, San Angelo has won eight of 10 district games
over Pecos, including a 7-2 win here a year ago.
Eagles coach Bubba Williams said he'll start junior Jason Abila, 3-2, on
the mound tonight. Abila didn't have his best stuff last week against
Sweetwater, allowing 12 base runners. But he still managed 14 strikeouts
and got some good defensive play behind him over the final five innings.
Pecos' defense didn't do a bad job over the last four innings at
Andrews, but walks and mistakes in the first two let the Mustangs push
across five unearned runs, more than enough to win. And that was the
same problem Abila ran into last year at San Angelo, when the Chiefs
scored 10 runs, seven unearned, in the first two innings to turn a 5-0
deficit into a 13-5 victory.
"We played poor defense behind Jason last year. Hopefully we'll do a
better job this time," Eagles' coach Bubba Williams said.
Sterlin Gilbert didn't pitch in either game against Pecos last year, but
he shut out the Eagles two years ago in Pecos, by an 11-0 final score.
Gilbert fanned nine Steers and allowed just five hits last week in Lake
View's victory at Big Spring.
It's possible Chiefs' coach Rene Cordova could hold out Gilbert for Lake
View's game later this week against Andrews and throw freshman
curveballer Chris Martinez, but Williams said "I think they're going to
come at us with Sterling.
"The last time, he beat us 11-0, but this is a different group of kids.
They hit the ball better, plus they seem to want it more," Williams said.
When the Wildcats came out of the huddle at the start of OT, having
blown a four-point lead with less than a minute left in regulation, ``it
was still our game to win,'' Arizona captain Miles Simon said.
And so, they won.
Displaying the resiliency that became its trademark in the NCAA
tournament, Arizona opened overtime with a 10-2 run and finished off
defending champion Kentucky 84-79 Monday night for its first national
Arizona (25-9) reached the Final Four after finishing fifth in the
Pac-10 and getting the fourth seed in the Southeast Regional. Kentucky
(35-5) was trying to join Duke as the only repeat champions since UCLA's
stretch of seven straight titles ended in 1973.
In its six tournament games, Arizona either needed to come from well
behind to win or needed to pull out a game after losing a late lead.
Along the way, Arizona became the first team in tournament history to
knock off three No. 1 seeds -- Kansas, North Carolina and now Kentucky,
three programs that have won more games than any schools in college
``They've gone through three number one seeds,'' Arizona coach Lute
Olson said, ``and in every one of those cases, that was the point: `Are
we tough enough? Can we be the ones that run other people out of gas?
Can we get the tough rebound down the stretch, even though you're
exhausted?' And I think they answered that for everybody tonight.''
With freshman point guard Mike Bibby starting alongside three juniors
and a sophomore, next season was supposed to be Arizona's time to shine.
That everything happened more quickly than even Olson thought possible
just made his team's accomplishments more remarkable.
``This team, there's no fluke,'' Kentucky coach Rick Pitino said of
Arizona. ``They're a great team who got better and better.''
Arizona won the first overtime championship game of the 1990s by
repeatedly burning Kentucky's vaunted fullcourt press, by holding
All-American forward Ron Mercer to nine shots, by going 34-of-41 from
the free-throw line, and by getting a career-high 30 points from Simon.
``Miles Simon's toughness is unbelievable,'' said Olson, who finally won
a title in his fourth Final Four appearance after coaching Arizona to
the decade's best record. ``Miles' understanding of the game is beyond
anything that you can teach. He just has a feel for it.''
Simon, who missed the season's first 11 games due to academic
ineligibility, was named the Final Four MVP. He was 14-of-17 from the
free-throw line, including 4-of-4 in overtime. Some of the foul shots
came after he and Bibby broke Kentucky's press; others came after he
took charge when Arizona's offense broke down.
``Miles was in a zone,'' teammate Michael Dickerson said. ``He kept
saying, `They can't stop me! They can't stop me!' And he had 30 points,
so they obviously couldn't stop him. And we kept giving him the ball.''
Dickerson, Arizona's top scorer this season, was held to five points for
the second consecutive game. But he helped shut down Mercer.
Dickerson, Simon and Jason Terry took turns making life miserable for
the NBA-bound sophomore, who had 13 points and committed five turnovers.
``I haven't been played like that all year,'' said Mercer, who had 20
points against Syracuse in the 1996 title game and was one of Kentucky's
few returning players. ``They made it very tough. Every time I curled
around, they had somebody waiting for me.''
Mercer went through long stretches without even touching the ball, but
he did make a long, off-balance 3-pointer with 51 seconds left in
regulation that cut Arizona's lead to 72-71. After Bibby made two free
throws, Anthony Epps hit a 3-pointer with 12.1 seconds left to send it
into overtime at 74-74.
But Arizona took command in OT, scoring all 10 of its points on free
throws after beating the press that had helped Kentucky win its previous
11 NCAA tournament games.
``If I had my druthers ... I wouldn't have pressed at all,'' Pitino
said. ``I did not want to press much because I felt that pressing wasn't
the way to go.''
Said Scott Padgett, who led Kentucky with 17 points: ``They did a great
job of handling our pressure. Before the game, they said they could do
it ... and they went out there and kept their cool.''
Nobody was cooler than Simon and Bibby.
``We've been working on the press since day one,'' Bibby said. ``I think
the greatest competition is what we see every day in practice. And our
team is just so quick out there.''
Bibby, whose father, Henry, won three titles playing for UCLA in the
early-1970s, capped a wonderful tournament with 19 points, nine rebounds
and four assists.
The scary thing for the rest of the country is that Arizona's top eight
players will be back, unless one or more move on to the NBA. North
Carolina coach Dean Smith already has predicted that Arizona will be in
the 1998 title game.
``Next season, I'd hate to play them,'' Epps said. ``They're going to be
great. They're already great. I don't think they'll let the national
title get to their heads. They're pretty down-to-earth. They're
obviously the team to beat.''
(Copyright 1997 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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