Friday, February 26, 2010.
If you’ve been following Jeret Peterson’s freestyle skiing career the past 10 or so years, and you have any Boise blood in your veins, you had to be emotional watching the Winter Olympics last night. Speedy went big—and he’s coming home with silver. Peterson landed his Hurricane jump and had the final round lead in men’s aerials until the second-to-last competitor. But Aleksei Grishin of Belarus, after a near-perfect first jump, needed only to be clean on his second. And he was, winning the gold medal by 1.2 points over Peterson. No individual jump could touch the Hurricane, though. Yesterday I surmised that it was the biggest day of Peterson’s life. Last night he said, “This is the best day of my life.”
On his first jump, Peterson executed a more conservative (for him) maneuver, but he was all smiles before and after as he finished the first round in fifth place. Only one way to go from there in the finals. The Hurricane was the most anticipated feature of NBC’s Thursday night coverage, and with a “Go baby,” he took off. Peterson knew he stuck it. And with that, it’s probably Olympic sayonara for Speedy. Only McCall’s Lyle Nelson, the great biathlete who in his fourth Winter Games carried the U.S. flag during the Opening Ceremonies at Calgary in 1988, has appeared in more Olympics among Idahoans. Peterson, who is 28, says he can’t imagine trying to making a fourth Olympiad when he’s 32. So here’s hoping you enjoyed the grand finale.
Boise’s Hailey Duke skis today in the women’s slalom, the culmination of three years’ worth of dues-paying on the U.S. ski team. Duke is fighting a cold but says that’s a minor thing as she goes into her first Olympic competition. She’s enjoying flying under the radar in Vancouver. “Whatever happens, happens,” said the Capital High grad in a KTVB interview with Mark Johnson. “I’m going to race the best I can—it’s going to be awesome.”
Elsewhere at the Winter Games, the women’s hockey final saw Canada blank the U.S. 2-0, with Sun Valley resident Hilary Knight managing three shots on goal. Ketchum’s Morgan Arritola and her American teammates were 12th in the 4x5 cross country relay. Arritola’s final event will be the 30 kilometer classic tomorrow. And former Boise State sprinter Nick Cunningham competes in the four-man bobsled tonight and tomorrow.
Louisiana Tech and Grambling are five miles apart. So you mean to tell me Boise State has played the Tigers once—and La Tech never has? That’s the truth, but it changes in this year’s season opener. The Bulldogs have their first meeting with Grambling September 4 at a neutral site, Shreveport’s Independence Stadium. It will be the first of a planned series of “Port City Classic” games in Shreveport. The Broncos, of course, hosted the Tigers and legendary coach Eddie Robinson in the semifinals of the 1980 Division I-AA Playoffs, pulling off an epic 14-9 upset that led to a national championship the following week.
NFL prospects who didn’t get the once-over from NFL scouts at the Senior Bowl last month have a lot at stake at the NFL Combine. Two in particular that local fans are familiar with will try to improve their stock in Indianapolis tomorrow and Sunday. Bowling Green wide receiver Freddie Barnes had a so-so week of practice leading into the East-West Shrine Game, but Fresno State wideout Seyi Ajirotutu had an excellent series of sessions before the January all-star contest. Scouts said Barnes’ speed is suspect but that he still had the ability to separate from defensive backs. Ajirotutu, meanwhile, impressed NFL brass with knack for yards after the catch—and his leadership abilities.
The way things are going for Hawaii, the Boise State men’s basketball team may have played its way into the WAC Tournament last night. Five days after one of their low points of the season, the Broncos bounced back to upset Louisiana Tech in Ruston, 72-59. Paul Noonan had his three-point stroke going, hitting four treys and leading BSU with 14 points. Noonan also had a team-high seven rebounds. The Broncos not only shot 50 percent themselves, they held the Bulldogs to just 35 percent from the field on their home floor. It was only the second loss at home this season for Louisiana Tech at the Thomas Assembly Center. Meanwhile, Hawaii lost to Utah State in Honolulu last night, 61-50. It was the Warriors’ ninth straight loss.
Now Boise State has to face New Mexico State tomorrow night in Las Cruces, where (unlike football) fans show up for basketball. Players show up from everywhere. The Aggies have five foreigners on their roster, all freshmen and sophomores. That’s tied for second-most in the country with—among others—Gonzaga and Hawaii (those two names right there show you there’s no rhyme or reason as to foreigners’ impact on a team’s success). “Typically when I go (outside the country), I will predominantly see taller kids, and other kids are a fringe benefit,” New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies said. “If I saw a 6-6 kid with a 42-inch vertical, I could still get excited about that one.” Menzies has a 7-foot center from Senegal and a 6-8 forward from France.
This may have been the Idaho Stampede’s best game since their tumultuous times began shortly after the first of the year. The Stampede shot 57 percent on the road and beat Albuquerque last night, 119-110. It was Andre Barrett’s turn to take over, as he posted a double-double with 23 points and 10 assists. And Lance Hurdle had a season-high 17 points, going 4-for-4 from three-point range as the Stamps went 10-for-20 from beyond the arc. The Stampede and Thunderbirds hook up again tonight. Also on the local pro sports calendar, the Idaho Steelheads continue their series with the Alaska Aces tonight and tomorrow night in Qwest Arena. Richard Bachman should get the start in goal in one of the games after a short but successful AHL stint with the Texas Stars.
There’s conference hardware to be decided this weekend. The WAC Indoor Track & Field Championships are underway at the Jackson Indoor Track in the Idaho Sports Center in Nampa, with the Boise State men looking to defend their title. The Bronco wrestling team guns for its third straight Pac-10 championship at the conference tournament tonight and tomorrow at UC Davis. Boise State is ranked between 9th and 12th in the country in wrestling’s three major polls and is led by former Centennial star Kirk Smith, the nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 184 pounds.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open. The title sponsor of the tournament shows how flexible the PGA has become during the Great Recession. But I digress. Former Boise State stars Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt look like they’re going to go 0-for-February in cuts made on the PGA Tour. DeLaet carded an even-par 71 in yesterday’s first round at TPC Scottsdale, while Merritt was at two-over 73, done in by three bogies on the back nine, including a double on the 15th hole.
This Day In Sports…February 26, 2004:
Boise State kicks off a key WAC road trip by racking up is biggest margin of victory in a road game in school history, routing SMU 89-50 in Dallas. The Broncos had shot 2-for-27 from three-point range 26 days earlier against the Mustangs in the Pavilion—on this night, they hit 15 treys in 24 attempts. The victory came in the middle of a seven-game winning streak, a late-season run that would land BSU in the NIT.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He also handles color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football.)