2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Parker Wins Top Honor at Men’s Basketball Banquet

    Sat, April 10, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    Air Force senior forward/center Grant Parker received the Bob Spear Award – the men’s basketball program’s top honor – at tonight’s banquet.

    The Spear Award is given to the student athlete that is outstanding in all areas of the academy – academics, athletics and military performance.

    Parker, who led the Falcons in scoring during the 2009-10 season with 12.7 points, shared the team’s Most Valuable Player honor with junior guard Evan Washington, the only Falcon to start all 31 games this season.

    Seniors Mike McLain and Avery Merriex shared the Falcon Award, given to the players that give 100 percent regardless of their situation and place on the team.

  • Thursday Morning Links

    Thu, March 11, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force lived to play another day by beating Wyoming, 59-40, in yesterday’s Mountain West Conference Tournament play-in game. The Falcons got a terrific performance from freshman guard Michael Lyons. And they got a game-high 15 points from senior forward/center Grant Parker. Gazette columnist David Ramsey praised Parker’s play, and the class he’s shown all season, in his blog: http://daveramseysez.freedomblogging.com.

    With the victory, Air Force advanced to the quarterfinals. In a little less than an hour, they’ll face top-seeded New Mexico, the nation’s eighth-ranked team. Here are my 3 Things to Watch in the game.

    Also, Air Force’s ice hockey team begins its playoff run tomorrow night against Army. Gazette hockey writer Joe Paisley has 3 Things to Watch in the best-of-three American Hockey Association quarterfinal series.

  • Air Force 59, Wyoming 40 – Rapid Reaction

    Wed, March 10, 2010 by admin with no comments

    So where was this team all season?

    The Falcons played with energy and emotion and – gasp – actually seemed to be having fun out there today.

    You could tell by the body language of the players that they were not going to lose this game. Even the guys on the bench – they were on their feet and cheering and celebrating. It was nice to see.

    An obvious reason the Falcons won was they actually hit some shots – something they did rarely in Mountain West Conference regular season play.

    But a bigger reason was defense. Air Force players were flying out to the perimeter to contest Wyoming’s 3-point shots. They were attacking passing lanes and going after errant passes. They were sliding their feet and making it tough for the Cowboys to get into the lane.

    In short, they were just playing nasty defense. The kind of defense Air Force used to play on a night-in, night-out basis.

    “We were really well prepared,” senior forward/center Grant Parker said. “We knew what they were going to do pretty much every single play. We knew their options and what they could possibly run. … I thought energy was a big thing tonight.”

    I asked Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds if his team had its best defensive performance of the season against the Cowboys.

    “I think there were stretches that we were very solid,” he said. “You know, (Wyoming freshman guard) Desmar (Jackson) is so good at getting into the lane. I thought (Air Force senior guard) Avery Merriex came off the bench and did an outstanding job of forcing him to go side to side versus to the basket. I thought Mike McLain did a really good job, as well as Grant.”

    Other Notes:
    -The Cowboys had a lot to do with their demise.

    Playing without starting point guard JayDee Luster, the Cowboys made 13 turnovers and hit just 2-of-16 3-pointers and just 8-of-19 shots from the foul line. Ouch.

    On Wyoming’s second possession of the second half, Desmar Jackson tossed a pass to Ryan Dermody on the right wing. Dermody reached for it with one hand, but it slipped off the hand and out of bounds. It just wasn’t the Cowboys’ day.

    -Speaking of Jackson, he is a talented kid. Especially as a scorer. So smooth and deceptively quick. He just has a knack for getting through traffic, contorting his body and finding a way to force in shots. He’ll be fun to watch in the coming seasons.

    -Play of the day, by far: Freshman guard Todd Fletcher’s drive to the hoop with about 3:26 to play. Wyoming was pressing, but the Falcons beat it, and Fletcher got the ball and took it across halfcourt. Instead of pulling it out and running clock, however, Fletcher saw a lane and exploited it. He went all the way to the rim and scored as he was fouled. He then hit the ensuing free throw to complete a 3-point play that finished off the Cowboys.

    “I made my diagonal cut. I just hear Evan in the background saying, ‘Go, go, attack,’” Fletcher said. “Their big guy was backing up. I had to make a layup. I went in, got hit. Coach says always keep your eyes on the rim and I did and it went in.”

    -I mentioned this in my notebook that will appear in tomorrow’s paper, but I wanted to send give props here on the blog. How ‘bout Ryan Gonzales – senior offensive tackle on the Air Force football team – winning the fan shootout during a break in the action in the first half?

    Gonzales hit a free throw, a 3-pointer and a halfcourt shot to win the competition. And he needed just two tries on the free throw and 3 and four on the halfcourt shot.

    There apparently are some ballers on the football team, including free safety Jon Davis (who played some for the prep school hoops team a few years ago), receiver Kevin Fogler, quarterback Tim Jefferson, receiver Kyle Halderman, outside linebackers Patrick Hennessey and Andre Morris Jr. and some others.

    -Quick, quick, quick turnaround for Air Force. The Falcons will have about 21 hours from the end of their game against Wyoming to tip-off of tomorrow’s game against New Mexico. Until then.

  • Wyoming 58, Air Force 49 – Rapid Reaction

    Wed, March 3, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    When Grant Parker was a freshman, Air Force won 26 games and reached the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament. The Falcons, for a time, were ranked No. 11 in the coaches’ Top 25.

    Now, just three years later, Air Force will finish in the Mountain West Conference cellar for the second season in a row.

    Could anyone have imagined such a drastic fall from grace? Parker certainly couldn’t have.

    “No,” he said. “You don’t really picture that happening. But at the same time, stuff happens and you’ve just got to try to move on and look to the (Mountain West Conference) tournament, I guess. It’s really tough because we’ve played really well at times this season, but collectively, overall, we haven’t really played as well as we would have liked.”

    Air Force ended last season with a smidge of a positive feeling, staying close in games at UNLV and BYU and then beating Colorado State in the MWC Tournament play-in game before finishing the season with a noble loss to the Cougars in the tournament quarterfinals.

    The Falcons will need a major turnaround in Saturday’s regular season finale and the MWC Tournament to take any positive feeling into this offseason. Because right now, the Falcons don’t seem to be getting any better.

    Other Notes:
    -Air Force pulled to within one point of Wyoming – 48-47 – after Tom Fow hit a jumper and then Evan Washington hit a 3-pointer with 2:40 to play.

    But things unraveled after that.

    So I asked Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds after the game how disappointed he was that his team didn’t execute so well on the possessions after Washington’s 3.

    “Well, what do you call, ‘not executing?’” he asked.

    Here were Air Force’s three possessions after Washington’s 3-pointer: Forced, air-balled 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire. Turnover. Turnover. I’d call that not executing.

    “We missed two layups, too,” Reynolds said.

    I told him I was talking about the three possessions following Washington’s 3.

    “Well, we wouldn’t have been in that situation if we’d made those shots prior,” Reynolds said. “And that’s frustrating.”

    -Air Force out-rebounded the Cowboys, 28-25. It was the first time in conference play the Falcons out-rebounded an opponent.

    -Freshman Michael Lyons continues to struggle from 3-point range. He missed all four of his attempts from beyond the 3-point arc and is now 1-for-16 from 3 in his last four games. Lyons also had five turnovers in 36 minutes tonight.

    -Shawn Hempsey started six games last season and played in 12 others. But he has barely sniffed the floor lately. He logged his sixth DNP-Coach’s Decision in MWC play on Tuesday night.

  • Sunday Morning Links

    Sun, February 28, 2010 by admin with no comments

    A dismal day at Clune Arena, a great night at Cadet Ice Arena.

    In the afternoon, UNLV dealt Air Force its worst home loss since 1993, despite a nice performance from a still-sick Tom Fow. The loss was Air Force’s 29th in its last 30 Mountain West Conference regular season games. Gazette columnist David Ramsey looked at how all that losing has affected Air Force seniors Grant Parker and Mike McLain. And here’s The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s take on the game.

    At night, however, things were happier. Air Force’s ice hockey team capped the regular season with an 8-1 beat-down of Sacred Heart. The Falcons’ victory, along with Mercyhurst’s overtime loss at Connecticut, means Air Force finished in third place in the Atlantic Hockey Association. The three-time defending AHA Tournament champs will face Army at home in a best-of-three quarterfinal series starting March 12.

  • Thursday Morning Links

    Thu, February 25, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Coming off a close loss at The Pit, the Air Force men’s basketball team seemed to have a little momentum heading into last night’s home game against struggling Utah.

    That’s gone.

    The Utes beat Air Force, 54-43, at Clune. Senior forward/center Grant Parker took the blame for the loss, even though he scored a game-high 11 points.

    Gazette columnist David Ramsey wrote about a crucial call in the game and Marshall Henderson, Utah’s rising star, in his blog: http://daveramseysez.freedomblogging.com/. And I gave my “Rapid Reaction” to the game in the post below.

    Also, here are the game stories from The Deseret Morning News and The Salt Lake Tribune.

    Switching to football, Matt Wallerstedt has replaced Tim DeRuyter as the Falcons’ defensive coordinator. But Wallerstedt, who hasn’t changed the defense, doesn’t look at it as a one-man show. More on the Falcons from yesterday’s practice later today in the blog.

    Finally, hockey writer Joe Paisley gives 3 Things to Watch in Air Force’s weekend series with Sacred Heart.

  • Monday Morning Links

    Mon, February 22, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force senior forward/center Grant Parker believes the Falcons’ close loss to New Mexico on Saturday proved his team “can compete with anybody.”

    Gazette columnist David Ramsey wrote about the New Mexico game, what he calls “a great loss,” in his blog: http://daveramseysez.freedomblogging.com/.

    By the way, in my “Rapid Reaction” to Saturday’s game, I mentioned the problems the Falcons have at the end of the shot clock (scroll down to see the “Rapid Reaction” post).

    I wasn’t the only one who noticed.

    In his game story in Sunday’s Albuquerque Journal, Mark Smith – an excellent basketball writer – also pointed to the Falcons’ problems late in the shot clock.

    “The Falcons kept hanging around. And if they had taken a few more shots, instead of focusing so much on the shot clock that a half-dozen possessions ended with turnovers or desperation heaves, they could have been even closer than their 28-22 deficit at the half.

  • New Mexico 59, Air Force 56 – Rapid Reaction

    Sat, February 20, 2010 by admin with 4 comments

    Talk to players and coaches after a close loss and you’ll typically hear them say they don’t believe in moral victories.

    I get it. There shouldn’t be any such thing.

    This was a moral victory for Air Force.

    After getting humiliated last week at BYU in a 43-point loss – the third-worst in program history – the Falcons peeled themselves off the concrete (albeit with an entire week to practice) and came to play this afternoon.

    At The Pit, arguably the toughest venue in the league (and perhaps beyond), the Falcons took the No. 12 team in the nation, one that carried a 10-game winning streak into the contest, down to the wire.

    Senior forward/center Grant Parker told me earlier this week that last week’s loss to BYU was a wake-up call. Parker always is honest and open, so I had no reason to believe he was just talking in clichés. But in addition to wondering why a team would need a wake-up call three-quarters of the way through the season, I also wondered if the Falcons would heed said wake-up call.

    They did.

    And that’s great.

    More important is whether they’ll build on what happened today.

    Other Notes:
    -Something that’s been a problem all season was evident once again on Saturday afternoon:

    Too many times – way too many times – Air Force appeared rattled and unprepared to make a play as the shot clock wound down.

    In the first half, Air Force committed a pair of shot clock violations (the clock expired with the ball in a player’s hands) and forced a pair of contested, rushed shots as the clock was about to expire (a 3-pointer by Derek Brooks and a mid-range jumper by Taylor Stewart). Two other times Avery Merriex travelled with less than five seconds on the clock.

    And on Air Force’s last possession of the first half, the Falcons basically did nothing until the clock was under :10 and then cleared out for Evan Washington. (He drove and missed a pull-up jumper just before the buzzer.)

    In the second half I counted four more forced shots just before the shot clock expired. And I wasn’t counting “good” shots that were taken in rhythm off good passes.

    Now, I understand that Air Force wants to use a lot of the shot clock to shorten games – and that’s the right strategy for a team as offensively challenged as the Falcons.

    But there has to be better recognition of the time on the clock so that there’s a better play than force-it-up-before-the-buzzer.

    -If you love college basketball, you had to love this afternoon’s game.

    It’s pretty easy to get cynical when you watch games for a living. But I gotta admit the hair on the back of my neck was standing up in the last minute.

    -Sign in the Lobo student section “Curling more exciting than AFA basketball.”

    I watched some curling the other day. And I have to say … give me about four or five days on the ice, and I think I could make a run at the Olympic team. After years upon years of playing shuffleboard in dimly-lit bars, curling doesn’t seem like it’d be that tough.

    -Speaking of the student section, the crowd in general was fantastic at The Pit. It lifted a struggling team and always seemed to crescendo at the right moments. Reminded me of when Clune Arena was alive.

    -One travel note:

    Is there any way we can stop flight attendants from saying, “This is the last and final call for flight …. ?”

    Is it confusing to just leave it at the “last call?” Or “final call?”

    I mean, when they get ready to stop serving drinks at my bar up the street, they announce that it’s “last call for alcohol.” Folks seem to be able to figure that out. And most of them are drunk.

    Were people missing flights because they figured, “Well, it’s the final boarding call for my flight. But I don’t think it’s the last call for it. I’ll head back to the concourse and buy a $4 bottle of water and a book for twice as much as I could buy it for at a bookstore outside the airport. I’m not going to the gate until it’s the last and final call for boarding.”

    I don’t think that happened. Otherwise, Regis Philbin would ask for a contestant’s “last and final answer.” Right?

    Thanks for listening.

  • Colorado State 51, Air Force 47 – Rapid Reaction

    Wed, February 10, 2010 by admin with 7 comments

    “Tonight we learned how to find a way to win.”
    -Colorado State coach Tim Miles

    “The difference in the game was we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket the second half. We had open shots.”
    -Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds

    Those were brief excerpts from tonight’s post-game interviews. And I think – in tandem – they help explain tonight’s result.

    We’ll start with Reynolds’ quote. Yes, Air Force couldn’t put the ball in the basket in the second half. After making 10-of-23 shots (43.5 percent) from the floor before halftime, the Falcons made just 4-of-22 shots (18.2 percent) after halftime.

    But part of that, I think, has to do with the fact that Air Force has not yet – to use Miles’ quote – learned how to find a way to win. If they knew how to find a way to win, maybe they knock down one of the open looks they had down the stretch. Maybe they get to the free throw line one more time. Maybe they avoid a careless turnover. Maybe they get one extra stop.

    The Falcons have dropped 26 of 28 games against MWC foes the last two seasons (including the tournament). And during that time they’ve found numerous ways to lose. But they haven’t learned how to win.

    And, unfortunately, there’s no crash course, no Cliff’s Notes for this. There’s no way to learn how to win except by winning.

    Other notes/thoughts:
    -It was really brutal to watch Air Force unravel.

    Seems like most times a team comes from behind to win a game, it makes a decisive run. Colorado State, however, just chipped away and chipped away as the Falcons became unable to score.

    -A quick note on the Falcons’ last possession with a chance to tie:

    Down 50-47, Air Force forces a missed shot by Colorado State (and a subsequent 35-second violation) and then calls timeout with 27.3 seconds left.

    Reynolds said he wanted to try to get a quick 2-point bucket. But that’s not what happened. The Falcons moved the ball around the perimeter and eventually settled for a contested 3-point shot by Evan Washington that missed.

    “Three freshmen, I think, were on the floor that last play, and we really wanted to drive the ball there because we had [27] seconds,” Reynolds said. “We knew they wouldn’t foul us, and we went a little brain dead.”

    -A potential rivalry in the making: Air Force’s Todd Fletcher vs. Colorado State’s Dorian Green.

    Both freshman point guards already are running their respective teams. Both have plenty of upside and moxie. And both should be playing in the MWC for the next three years. It will be fun to watch them go head-to-head the next few seasons.

    -Reynolds praised freshmen Michael Lyons (seven points and four rebounds but four turnovers) and Taylor Broekhuis (seven points, three rebounds), who played 28 and 23 minutes, respectively, though “they’ve been really sick.”

    -Kudos also to senior forward/center Grant Parker, who scored a game-high 13 points despite playing with a sore left shoulder. Parker’s left arm popped out of and back into its socket during Monday’s practice.

    -Washington matched a career-high with eight rebounds but missed 10-of-13 shots from the floor, including all four of his 3-point attempts.

  • Monday Morning Links

    Mon, February 8, 2010 by admin with 3 comments

    Once again, must give must respect to the BlogDog.

    Of the four prognosticators in The Gazette, only BlogDog correctly predicted New Orleans would topple the Colts yesterday.

    The man. I should have listened to him.

    Anyway, back to Air Force athletics. The Falcons suffered the worst loss David Ramsey has seen in seven years of covering the team on Saturday. Ramsey wrote in today’s edition of The Gazette that head coach Jeff Reynolds is overseeing a team that no longer runs the Princeton offense. And I wrote for the paper about how Grant Parker is playing hard despite being at, according to Reynolds, “65 percent.”