Barnett has sights set on record books

By Michael Kinney

Bennett Barnett wants to leave his mark. The Mount Saint Mary senior distance runner wants to make sure when his time is up his name will be etched in the record books.

In order to do that, Barnett knows he has to do something special. For him, that means breaking a record that has stood since 2014.

“My main goal is to break the 3A state record in the 3200, which is 9:36.37 for 3A,” Barnett said. “That’s my main goal. So I have a little bit more to get down, but I think I can do it.”

The 3A record is currently held by Colton Green of Henryetta. He set it at the 2014 State track and Field Championships. The overall state record, regardless of class, is held by Ben Barrett of Norman North. He ran a 8:59.97, which he set in 2015.

Barnett’s top time this year is 9:54. He set it April 19 at the Piedmont Invitational. But he thinks he could have done even better.

“I think I went out a little too hard. I think I went out in about a 68, which is definitely a little too fast,” Barnett said. “I could’ve run it a little smarter, a little even with the laps, and I think maybe done a little bit better. But I’m pretty happy. This is my first win of the year. My first time breaking 10:00 in outdoor. And yeah, I’m just happy to go away with a win.”

Yet, Barnett is still a few seconds off his personal best.

“It’s my second best time. I ran 9:51 at the Pittsburgh State meet,” Barnett said. “It was an indoor race. And I didn’t come out with a win on that one. I got pulled to a pretty fast time, and I was happy with that, too.”

No other runner in class 3A has gotten below 10 minutes this season. The second best time belongs to Marietta’s Preston Whisenhunt at 10:04.

While Barnett is still just over 18 seconds away from breaking the state record, he is confident it can be done if the conditions are right.

“It’s just going to take a good day, a little wind, good race, couple guys around me,” Barnett said. “And just a lot of guts.”

Mount Saint Mary’s track coach, Frezer Legesse, agrees.

“It’s going to take conditions first, because we’ve done everything that we can from a training aspect, and he’s there with it. It’s just conditions,” Legesse said. “And then obviously today’s race (Piedmont), he led from the gun. So just kind of having a little competition in there and being able to kind of have someone help out in the front. I think those are the kind of things that it will take. But I think he’s definitely there for it.”

Legesse is in his first full year as the MSM head coach. The former University of Oklahoma runner and Under Armour sponsor already has a state cross country championship under his belt from last fall

Barnett led Mount Saint Mary to the cross country championship after finishing third overall in the race for the individual title.

Now, Barnett wants to end his career with another state championship and a record.

“I think going into state, I think fitness-wise he’s there about sub 9:40, in the 9:30s,” Legesse said. “But of course, we’re in Oklahoma, and we’ve been facing a lot of tough wind and just tough conditions with a lot of the stuff that’s going on outside of track and field. So it’s been hard to kind of get those races in. But I think going forward, I think his fitness is there. He’s just got to be able … if everything comes together, I think he’s definitely in the 9:30s shape for sure.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with EyeAmTruth.com

 

Big 3 struggle closing out Game 2

(Photo by TorreyPurvey.com)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — The main focus of Utah after their Game 1 loss to Oklahoma City was physical play. From Coach Quinn Snyder on down, the Jazz said they Allowed the Thunder to push them around.

Making sure that didn’t happen again in Game 2 was a top priority list for the Jazz. And this time, it was the Thunder who didn’t have an answer Utah defeated Oklahoma City 102-95 Wednesday to even the first-round series at 1-1.

“Yeah, we felt this one,” Utah’s Jae Crowder said. “We’ve been talking all week, and when watched the film it woke us up to see how easy and free the game is. In the playoffs it shouldn’t be that easy, it should be tough. They made it tough for us game one, but I think we hit first in game two and we kept hitting even when it got tough and they went on runs. We kept going.”

Donovan Mitchell led all scorers with 28 points for the Jazz. Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors scored 22 and 20 points, respectively.

Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 19 points, nine rebounds and 13 assists. Paul George added 18 points and 10 boards while Carmelo Anthony chipped in with 17 points and nine rebounds.

However, the trio combined to score only 2 points in the fourth quarter on 0-14 shooting.

“I don’t know. We missed them,” Anthony said. “We all missed. I don’t really have an answer to what happened or an excuse on why we didn’t make shots. We just didn’t make shots in that fourth quarter. We worked so hard in the third quarter to get the lead back and played too well to get back to go up seven or eight in that third quarter. [In the] fourth quarter, we didn’t shoot the ball well.”

With 2:53 left in the game, Steven Adams fouled out trying to stop a Rudy Gobert layup. He stomped off the court as Gobert pointed toward the exit for him.

Gobert put the Jazz up 95-91. Two possessions later, Westbrook hit a pair of free throws to close the gap to two with a pair of free throws.

Mitchell was fouled by Anthony and he knocked down both free throw attempts.

Grant missed a three-pointer from the corner and the Jazz got the board. That led to a Mitchell spinning layup to put Utah up 99-93.

However, Oklahoma City’s Jerami Grant came back with a layup of his own. The Thunder then forced the Jazz into back to back empty possessions. However, Anthony missed a pair of 3-pointers and Oklahoma City was unable to capitalize.

Gobert hit two more free throws and Utah led 101-95 with 21 seconds left. That was enough to close out the night.

“We’ve just got to be aggressive, miss and make shots,” Westbrook said about the fourth quarter. “Shots are going to fall. Those guys are unbelievable scorers and we trust in those guys all season long and we will continue to do that.”

Oklahoma City was also outrebounded 56-46, which was a part of Utah’s plan.

“They rebounded the ball offensively really well tonight [and] Ricky Rubio, he played great,” Oklahoma City’s Cory Brewer said. “He made shots, [Derrick] Favors played great, [Donovan] Mitchell played great. You know we’ve got to figure it out and come out and stop them next game.”

The first half was exactly the type of game the Jazz wanted. They were able to slow the pace down and turn it into a halfcourt grind on almost every possession.

Oklahoma City was held to four fast-break points in the half to go along with nine turnovers as Utah held a 53-46 halftime advantage.

“I mean it is playoffs. It is playoffs,” George said. “I think it’s a base level, period, when it comes to playoffs. You have to raise that physicality level. That’s all where it stems from. I’m going to let them know it’s not going to be easy out there.”

With Mitchell slowed by a poor shooting night, it was Favors who picked up the slack. After being held to just 7 total points Sunday, who shredded the Thunder interior defense in Game 2.

Midway through the third quarter, the Jazz led by 9.

However, that was short-lived. Oklahoma City came screaming back behind some timely 3-point shooting. Westbrook, Anthony and George all drained shots from long distance.

But more importantly for the Thunder, they began to clamp down on defense. They took away the easy looks they had been allowing and forced Utah into some tough shots.

The Thunder went on a 19-0 run to take a 10-point lead before Utah closed the deficit to 79-74 heading into the fourth quarter.

“The game is about runs. We had a big run and they had a run,” Anthony said. “They started off the game aggressive, getting us out of the flow of the offense early. We sustained that and got ourselves back into the game to end that third quarter. They sustained throughout the fourth quarter. Us not making shots in the fourth quarter played into their hands. They did a good job or making plays, offensive rebounds, 50/50 basketballs out there, loose balls out there and they beat us at the punch in the little things tonight. They ran away with this game.”

Game 3 is Saturday night in Utah.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Playoff P arrives just in time for the Thunder

Photo by TorreyPurvey.com

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY –Russell Westbrook and Carmelo hadn’t heard it before. Even though thyey had been teammates with Paul George for the entire regular season, the nickname Playoff P came as a surprise to them.

However, after the performance George put on Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round series at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, they didn’t try and deny it fit.

“When he’s aggressive, it changes the game for us, as you saw tonight,” Westbrook said of Playoff P. “Like Melo said, he got it going. Our job is to make sure we find him and make it easy for him. As long as he stays aggressive, miss or make, we’re a better team.”

In his first playoff game with Oklahoma City George scored a game-high 36 points on 13 of 20 shooting to lead the Thunder to a 116-108 victory over the Utah Jazz.

George hit eight of the 11 three-pointers he attempted to set a new Thunder playoff record for made 3s in a game. He also tacked on seven rebounds in 38 minutes of action. George was taken out the game with a minute left due to a hip injury.

“I am going to bring it to that level on a nightly basis,” George said. “Obviously, I was hot tonight but that is the level I am going to bring it every night.”

George wasn’t alone in dismantling the Jazz. Russell Westbrook added 29 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Carmelo Anthony scored 15 points and grabbed 7 boards.

Rookie Donovan Mitchell paced the Jazz with 27 points on 11 of 22 shooting. He also posted 10 rebounds in his first playoff game.

“I think it is what I expected, at least for myself,” Mitchell said. “You know the physicality was there, playing through certain things, fighting for rebounds, and just being more aggressive. I think the last Portland game that we had really kind of gave us a test to what playoff basketball was going to be like, and I think as a team we were all ready.”

Utah had six other players score in double figures. Rudy Gobert led them with 14 points and seven boards.

The night didn’t start out very strong for the Thunder. After Westbrook threw down a monster dunk for the game’s first points, the Jazz went on a 14-2 run.

It looked like Oklahoma City was about to be in some serious trouble before they calmed the waters and had tied the game at 25-25 at the end of the quarter.

“We just calmed down. We had to play our game, you know,” Corey Brewer said. “They kind of came out and hit us in the mouth you could say, but we calmed down and came out and played the way we should play the whole game.”

Oklahoma City’s big three carried the bulk of the offensive load in the first half. Westbrook, George and Anthony combined for 43 points to give the Thunder a 54-48 halftime lead.

Mitchell was the only member of the Jazz to cause the Thunder fits in the first half. He got some help in the third quarter from Ricky Rubio, Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder.

However, Utah took a huge hit when Gobert picked up his fourth foul with 5 minutes left in the third quarter.

But none of that really mattered. The third quarter was all about George, who scored 11 points in the quarter, including a dagger as the buzzer sounded to give the Thunder had a 9 point advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

“You know I thought throughout the course of the game, I just took what they gave me,” George said. “Kind of what I talked about coming into this is not being indecisive. They are going to give me perimeter shots or midrange shots and just take them and just be decisive on setting it up and looking for those opportunities.”

With Mitchell on the bench, Utah was unable to find any consistent scoring. George and the Thunder bench took advantage as they pushed their lead to 15.

By the time Mitchell returned, it was too late. Oklahoma City was on a roll and there was nothing the Jazz could do to slow them down.

“Yeah, he hurt his foot. He had some soreness in his foot. They went back and X-rayed him, and they said he’s okay. Doctors cleared him,” Utah coach Quinn Snyder said. “So I put him back in the game, and then when I saw him, it looked to me like he was feeling a little bit, and we just wanted to make sure, so I took him out and kind of confirmed it, and then he went back in, and then at that point we felt like it was going to be difficult for us to win the game, and we subbed again, subbed a number of guys.

The Thunder led 109-91 and the contests seemed over. But the Jazz went on a 17-6 run to cut the lead down to 115-108 with 23 seconds left.

But it was too little too late as Oklahoma City made just enough free throws down the stretch to fend off Utah.

Utah came into the postseason with many believing they had the top defensive unit. But Oklahoma City showed what they can do when they are hitting on all cylinders. But they know they must continue to improve in Game 2 Wednesday.

“We had a slow start and got to dribbling and rushed shots. They started off hot, and I thought we responded very well for the rest of the game being physical and executing our game plan,” Westbrook said. “That’s all we have to do moving forward. This game is done. We didn’t do anything special. We won a game at home. That is what you’re supposed to do and then get ready for the next one.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with EyeAmTruth.com

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