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Daytona 500 Thoughts; A Friend In Mind

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Normally when the NASCAR season starts, I pick the 16 drivers that will make The Chase, but forget that this year. Let’s get straight to the point.

Last season, many as well as I undervalued Kevin Harvick and his chances to win the title after switching to new team. Now, he is the reigning champ.

Here are my final four in the championship this season. Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson. I think it’s Harvick repeating with Johnson finishing a close second.

Thursday is the qualifying duels. In the first duel, give me Matt Kenseth. Kenseth is the only one I trust to make it cleanly through this event and the car is fast. The first group is loaded with talent by the way. The second race is more of a guess. I will take Martin Truex Jr. on a limb here. That car has been bad fast so far.

On Sunday’s 500, Martin Truex Jr. is my underdog pick, but I will take Denny Hamlin. A second and a sixth in his last two Daytona starts make him a good pick. 

Men’s High School Basketball

R-S Central has picked up some steam here lately. The Hilltoppers have now won three in a row to end the regular season. They shocked East Burke, ran past East Rutherford and then upended Burns during this latest stretch. During those three wins, they have been very offensively balanced. The Hilltoppers have shown offensive woes all year long, but things are going well at the right time. If that continues, the Hilltoppers could make a interesting stay in the 2A playoffs.

East Rutherford on the other hand has lost three of their last four games, but still are a dangerous team. They beat Chase to end a three game skid and is still in line for a 2A playoff berth as is R-S Central.

The conference tourney plays 2/17/15-2/20/15. Playoff brackets should be released on Saturday 2/21/15.

East Rutherford and R-S Central guys will likely be on the road for all of the playoffs.

On the girls side, R-S Central has locked up a home court matchup in the playoffs, if not two. They have won 9 of their last 10 games. Still they must play in the conference tourney as many would expect them and Crest to go at it for third time this season.  East Rutherford has been up and down all year. They have won five of their last nine and could get one of the last couple of bids in the playoffs. They could have to go to East Davidson and face the undefeated Lady Golden Eagles in the first round. That would be a tall task as nobody has scored more than 50 points in a game against them all season.

Back to East Rutherford and R-S Central for just one moment. Sometimes, games are much bigger than we make it. Last Tuesday was a special moment between the two schools themed the night as Coaches Versus Cancer. Mainly since R-S Central girls coach, Darius Fuller fought cancer last year and for now has a clean bill of health. The night was sort of in his honor and it should have been. Fuller has done a great job coaching and teaching life lessons in his tenure at the school and hopefully for many more years to come. It was a special moment as the four coaches, Larry Ross, Brad Levine, Greg Wright and Darius Fuller came together at mid-court as they embraced Fuller during what has been a tough few months for him. All of this during rivalry week. Although, the Hilltoppers swept…for just one night, there was something more than games being played. They were playing in honor of someone whose family and passion for coaching the game of basketball got him through a tough time in his life. Hopefully there are no more cancer issues to come back for Fuller. So, I’m dedicating this week’s column to Darius. I am sure he has probably not been happy with a time a two, but we remain good friends.

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