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Dan Weber: Just Sayin’ — the good and bad in midseason hoops for TMU, NKU and the All ‘A’ folks

THE STORY CONTINUES FOR THE NO. 1 TEAM IN NORTHERN KENTUCKY SPORTS – and the NAIA nationally – as Jeff Hans’ Thomas More women’s basketball team won a pair of Mid-South Conference games on the road this past weekend to improve to 19-0. Just another validation for the NAIA Coaches’ Poll that awarded the Saints all 21 No. 1 votes last week.

Jeff Hans

With their 76-42 win at Tennessee Southern Saturday, highlighted by 11 steals, TMU improved to 13-0 in the MSC. The Saints, who beat Cumberland (Tenn.) 65-60 Thursday thanks to Courtney Hurst’s 22 points including five three-pointers, return home Thursday for a 5:30 game against a Georgetown team they beat 75-63 on the road earlier in the season.

• NAIA NO. 10 TMU MEN STRUGGLE ON MSC ROAD: Not an easy trip through Tennessee for the NAIA’s 10th-ranked TMU men who fell twice – to Cumberland 78-75 Thursday and to Tennessee Southern 80-74 Saturday – to drop to 14-4 overall and 9-4 in the MSC. Junior Reid Jolly continued his high-scoring ways with 24 points at Cumberland and 18 at Tennessee Southern. The Saints, who need newcomers Kyle Ross and Matt Smith to add some size, muscle and defense, will have a chance to get back on the right side with a 7:30 home game Thursday against a Georgetown team TMU beat in December.

• COULDN’T HAVE BEEN A BETTER WEEK FOR HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL here than the competitive and crowd-pleasing All “A” Classic last week at Beechwood that saw Holy Cross’s last-second 74-72 championship game win end up being decided by the state’s – and the nation’s – leading scorer Jacob Meyer on a 40-point night Saturday. If there’s a chance that a fourth All “A” champ in 34 years goes on to double up with a boys’ Ninth Region title, improving finalists Holy Cross and Newport would certainly seem to be on that list in a flip-a-coin Ninth Region this season. Some serious talent on display.

Dick Maile

• ONE OF THE BEST REASONS to catch a high school basketball game in Northern Kentucky is the chance, as we had last week at the All “A” Tournament, to spend time talking to two of the special – and multi-generational — people in Northern Kentucky sports – Dick Maile and Benny Clary. Maile, the former CovCath and LSU basketball star who ended up as the then-No. 3 scorer in LSU history on his graduation, has coached in so many places and knows so many people and their stories, that it’s a trip through Northern Kentucky sports history just to catch a game with him. That he’s also the grandfather of soon-to-be-first-round NFL draft pick Michael Mayer of Notre Dame, the best tight end in Irish history, is a bonus. “I couldn’t have asked to grow up in a better place than Northern Kentucky when we did,” Dick says.

One of those reasons would be a man like Benny Clary, who has spent the better part of the last seven decades of his life making sports so special in Northern Kentucky. A personal note here: Benny was my first peewee football coach in Ludlow when he allowed me to be the youngest player on his team. The man who did official timing duties for decades at both NKU, where the press table is named for him, and Xavier, was also head usher for the Reds and Bengals and a fixture at every Ludlow High game ever played with a family legacy all through Northern Kentucky sports. And the sweetest, most connected person ever. Watch a game with Benny and you’ll have every official in the building stop by to say “Hi.”

Benny Clary

• ABOUT KENTUCKY’S WIN AT TENNESSEE: For a team that hasn’t shot the ball well all season, not a bad idea to go with the guys who can shoot, which in UK’s case included former Covington Catholic star CJ Fredrick, the transfer from Iowa, who hit three big threes to keep the Cats in the game and gave them a chance to fight through a tough start in Knoxville to a 63-56 win. But then this question: How does the team that lost to a South Carolina team at home that lost to Tennessee by 43 points then go and beat UT on the road three days later? As good as this win should make UK fans feel, how should it make them feel about those Wildcat teams that were on the floor for some of the worst losses in modern UK history earlier in this 11-6 season? Great fight in the Cats at UT. But is it too much to expect to see that in every game by a team with KENTUCKY on its jerseys?

• NKU HOOPS PERFORMING THE SPLITS: A 50-50 weekend with similar split results for the Norse. While the men were losing 80-75 at Milwaukee and then winning 74-53 at Green Bay, the women were losing 74-67 at Oakland and winning 75-57 at Detroit Mercy, leaving the men with an 11-8 overall record but 6-2 in the Horizon League. The women are 10-7 overall but only 4-4 in the Horizon. Both teams are home this weekend with the men getting the Thursday-Saturday slots against Cleveland State (7 p.m.) and Purdue-Ft. Wayne (6 p.m.) with the women going earlier on Friday (11 a.m.) against Purdue-Ft. Wayne and 2 p.m. Sunday against Cleveland State. With most of the rest of the season on the road for both, NKU can’t waste these home floor opportunities.

• JUST A REMINDER ABOUT WEDNESDAY’S NORTHERN KENTUCKY SPORTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTIONS at the Gardens of Park Hills. Longtime MLB umpire Randy Marsh will be the guest speaker for the 1 p.m. get-together that will induct five new members: Ludlow’s Mike Lewis and Mike “Cootie” Creutzinger, Boone County’s Alan “Sonny” Sullivan, Campbell County’s Greg Menetrey and Dayton’s Jim Wihebrink. Public is invited. Admission is free.

• TOUGH DAY FOR TMU WRESTLERS at Campbellsville Saturday but two weight class winners in a 35-7 dual-meet loss were No. 7 NAIA Wilder Wichman at 165 with a 3-2 win and then at 285, TMU’s Daulton Mayer, a Walton-Verona alum, took an 8-0 major decision over the NAIA’s No. 17 super-heavyweight Gavin Smith.

Dan Weber is a sports reporter and columnist for the NKyTribune.

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