2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Schafer Still Hurting

    Sat, May 15, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force sophomore center Sammy Schafer still has a headache.

    Doctors now think he might be suffering from chronic migraines (he has a family history) that were brought on by his November concussion. But they are hopeful his new medication might bring some relief – finally.

    Find my story on Sammy here.

  • Air Force 70, Wyoming 63 – Rapid Reaction

    Sat, January 30, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds caught part of the Gonzaga-Santa Clara game on Thursday night when he got home from the academy.

    A young Santa Clara team, playing at home, led by 11 mid-way through the second half. Its lead was down to five, 64-59, with just less than six minutes to play. And Santa Clara would not score again. Gonzaga ended up winning, 71-64.

    Reynolds could relate.

    “I could see the whole coaching staff knowing it was slipping away because their players seemed to not know how to win,” he said. “I don’t think that’s something you do over night. I think that’s something you have to mature with.”

    Maybe the Falcons finally are learning how to win.

    Last season Air Force lost at home to TCU by three. It lost at home to Colorado State by five. It lost at home to Wyoming by three. It let potential upsets slip away at UNLV, losing 46-43, and BYU, losing 54-49.

    This season the Falcons squandered a second-half lead and lost at TCU. And last week they led UNLV at halftime but could not pull out a victory.

    Today, finally, they found a way to win.

    And while ending the ugly 22-game losing streak in Mountain West Conference regular season games was big, it might have been how they won that was so important. Air Force had a lead in the first half and lost it. And then, after scoring on five straight possessions to go up 49-42, Wyoming went on an 8-0 run to re-take the lead.

    So many times since Air Force’s last regular season Mountain West Conference victory on March 8, 2008, the Falcons had been in similar situations. And wilted. This time, thanks in large part to Evan Washington, they handled adversity and came through when it counted. Washington hit a jumper and then a 3. Freshman Michael Lyons drained a 3 with a good bounce. And then Washington hit six straight free throws (the first four being the front- and back-ends of one-and-ones).

    Yes, it was just one game. It’s not time to break open the champagne. But simply getting a victory, knowing they can find ways to win, could mean the world to this team.

    “I think it will build confidence a lot,” Washington said. “This year I think we have a tougher team than we did last year. Last year we kind of let losing become a part of our mentality. We’ve finally figured out that we have to go into each and every game playing to win. That’s what we did today.”

    Other Thoughts:
    -Reynolds gave an assist to the announced crowd of 3,414 at Clune Arena.

    It was the biggest crowd to watch the Falcons at home during conference play this season. And by far the loudest.

    “Clune got loud today,” Reynolds said. “It got loud today. I don’t know what the attendance was, but I thought about the fans and thanking them for coming out today.”

    -It’s all about the 3.

    When Air Force is hitting from the perimeter, it has a chance to win.

    Today, the Falcons tied a season high by hitting 11 from beyond the 3-point arc. Six players hit 3s, with Michael Lyons nailing 3-of-5, and Evan Washington, Mike Fitzgerald and Todd Fletcher all hitting two apiece.

    Air Force went 11-of-25 from 3-point range in the game (44.0 percent) including 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) in the second half.

    -Already without leading scorer Afam Muojeke (knee), Wyoming did not have starting center Adam Waddell (ankle), who had scored 13 points with 22 rebounds in the Cowboys’ previous game.

    But complaining to Air Force about injuries is like complaining to an Alaskan about the cold. Seven key Falcons have missed a combined 45 games this season, and starting center Sammy Schafer (post-concussion symptoms) and guard/forward Taylor Stewart (wrist) both still are out.

    -Memories from Air Force’s distant past and recent glory days came flooding back at halftime when about 15 former players were introduced to the crowd as part of the program’s homecoming weekend.

    Among those in attendance were 1959 grad Robert Blake, former great big man Randy Gricius, a 1979 grad, and Jacob Burtschi, John Frye and Tim Anderson – key cogs in the Falcons’ great run from 2003 through 2007.

    Tough to say who got the biggest cheer. Either Anderson or Burtschi.

    -Much of the game story I wrote today was about the Falcons wanting to win.

    Don’t doubt their desire.

    It’s 7:56 p.m. as I write this from courtside at Clune. I had thought I was the last person here.

    I’m not.

    Mike McLain came back on the court at about 7:30. He spent some time working on free throws and 3-pointers, some time sprinting up and down the floor and making layups, and some time working on post moves around and through some folding chairs he set up on the floor. Now he’s running sprints from sideline to sideline.

    That’s dedication.

  • Wednesday Morning Links

    Wed, January 27, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Some links before leaving Las Vegas:

    Air Force played well and led at halftime but still lost at UNLV last night, 60-50.

    The Falcons are getting healthier, but sophomore center Sammy Schafer might not make it back this season.

    Here’s the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s take on the game and a column on the game and Air Force.

  • UNLV 60, Air Force 50 – Rapid Reaction

    Wed, January 27, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said it best after the game:

    “We competed,” he said. “But that’s still not satisfaction.”

    Indeed, after the Falcons lost four straight by an average of 20 points, it had to be encouraging for them to take a team like UNLV down to the wire – on the Rebels’ home court no less.

    But there won’t be complete satisfaction until competing turns into winning.

    And if it’s going to happen, it’s got to happen in the next two weeks. For two intertwined reasons:

    Reason one: The Falcons finally are relatively healthy. Grant Parker, their top player, is back and now has two games under his belt. That leaves Air Force without just two key players (sophomore center Sammy Schafer and sophomore guard/forward Taylor Stewart). But getting Parker back was key. It changes everything about how Air Force plays offense and, more importantly, how opponents play defense against Air Force.

    Reason two: Look at the schedule.

    Starting Saturday, when the Falcons play a Wyoming team that is without its best player (leading scorer Afam Muojeke is out for the year with a knee injury), Air Force gets the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-place teams in the conference, all at home, in a four-game stretch. After playing Wyoming, the Falcons have a tough road trip to San Diego. But after that are winnable games at home against TCU and Colorado State.

    Air Force needs to cash in on at least one of those games. Or 0-16 becomes a real possibility for the second season in a row.

    -While the key stretch in the game was early in the second half when UNLV scored on eight of 10 possessions (with five 3s in the stretch), another important moment came just before halftime.

    Air Force was up 24-15 with 2:24 left in the first half. But UNLV closed the half on a 6-0 run. So instead of taking a substantial lead to halftime, the Falcons, for as well as they played, were up by one 3-pointer. And some of their momentum was gone.

    Asked if the Falcons need to close halves better, Parker said, “Yeah, we do.

    “And part of that was shot selection. … When they started getting going there, we came down and started taking quick shots, and we can’t do that if we want to beat athletic teams like this. We’ve got to slow down the game and be smart in our shot selection. I took some bad shots too, and I know some other guys did too, and we can’t do that if we’re going to finish a half strong.”

    -Freshman forward/center Taylor Broekhuis entered the game 0-for-15 on the season from 3-point range, and after he missed his first two 3s in the first half on Tuesday night, he passed up a wide open shot from behind the arc late in the half.

    Not only was the shot wide open, it was within the framework of the offense, and Air Force didn’t get a better shot after he passed on it.

    During the next timeout, Reynolds told Broekhuis that he had to shoot the ball in that situation, using a word that I can’t include in the blog to drive home the point.

    The message was received. Five minutes into the second half, Broekhuis took a pass from Todd Fletcher and, without hesitation, squared his shoulders and drained a 3 from the top of the key.

    “I took him out and didn’t start him in the second half because he wouldn’t shoot it,” Reynolds said. “And he’s a good shooter. And hopefully that will help his confidence.”

    -Air Force used its ninth different starting five tonight, and its fourth in six conference games: Fletcher and Evan Washington at the guard spots, Michael Lyons and Mike McLain at the forward spots and Broekhuis at center.

  • Northern Arizona 60, Air Force 52 – Rapid Reaction

    Sun, December 20, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Last week Air Force played perhaps its best game of the season in routing Prairie View A&M, 75-41. The Falcons then stayed close with Washington State of the Pac-10, playing admirably before falling, 75-68.

    Two steps forward.

    Tonight Air Force lost to Northern Arizona.

    One step back. Way back.

    The Lumberjacks had lost four of five heading into tonight’s game, including blowout losses to San Diego State and New Mexico of the Mountain West Conference by 41 and 39 points, respectively.

    Yes, the Falcons missed leading scorer Grant Parker and his 17.1 points per game. And, yes, they missed starting center Sammy Schafer.

    But Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds, to his credit, said after the game that while those players would have helped the Falcons he didn’t think their absence was why his team lost.

    “We’re not the only team in the country that has injuries,” Reynolds said. “So we’ve got to find a way to battle through it.”

    Air Force played well in the first half, building a 27-23 advantage at the break. But the Falcons were dreadful in the second half. They scored on just one of their first 11 possessions, and through 15-plus minutes they had scored just nine points.

    For they game they went 3-for-13 from 3-point range (including 0-for-7 in the second half) and 11-of-21 from the free throw line.

    That can’t happen. Just like the Air Force football team has to be able to run the ball and limit turnovers, the basketball team has to make 3-pointers and free throws.

    Other Thoughts:
    -On the bright side, freshman guard Todd Fletcher had another good game for the Falcons.

    Fletcher, who scored a career-high 13 points in a career-high 29 minutes a week ago against Washington State, had 11 points in 27 minutes tonight.

    He seems to have a good feel for the game – Reynolds said he had “a good floor game,” tonight. And it showed on defense. Twice in the first half Fletcher broke into a passing lane to swipe the ball and start a fast break.

    -Freshmen typically are up and down. That would describe Michael Lyons’ last two games. He had a career-high 25 last week against Washington State on 10-of-15 shooting. Tonight he went 2-of-10 from the floor and finished with four points.

  • Saturday Morning Links

    Sat, December 19, 2009 by admin with no comments

    The Air Force men’s basketball team faces Northern Arizona tonight at Clune Arena. The Lumberjacks (love that name/mascot) are 3-6 and have lost four of five.

    The game should give some indication as to how Air Force will fare against the top half of the Mountain West Conference because the Lumberjacks already have played New Mexico and San Diego State (and been blown out by both). Yes, Air Force will be without two starters (Sammy Schafer and Grant Parker), but that could be how the Falcons start league play in early January.

    Anyhow, here’s an article on freshman forward Michael Lyons and my 3 Things to Watch in tonight’s game.