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NIT Pickin’- It was cool to see another Central Valley college basketball team make it to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) final four in New York. Cal-State Bakersfield (CSUB) advanced to the semi-finals at the most renowned sporting facility in the world as they joined Georgia Tech, Texas Christian University and the University of Central Florida at Madison Square Garden to settle the score for the NIT title, a title of which Fresno State garnered way back in 1983.

For the uninitiated, the NIT is a tournament made up of those teams who were not selected for the big dance. Those selected for the NIT play on the campuses of the highest seeded teams until the final four left standing advance to New York. CSUB never got to use Rabobank Arena to their home-court advantage as they were always the lower seeded of the teams they played.

The Roadrunners’ perfect mark on the road gave them the privilege of playing Georgia Tech in one of the semi-final games in New York. Unfortunately the ‘Runners run ended as the Yellow Jackets stung them during a lopsided Tech victory.

It was quite a feather in Bakersfield’s cap to make it to the NIT final four and so much of the credit has to go to head coach Rod Barnes and his staff. Barnes took over from Keith Brown in 2011 and has righted that floundering ship. In only his third year at the helm he guided CSUB to a 24-8 record and a spot in the NCAA Championships and followed that season up with this year’s NIT run. Quite a feat indeed, as Bako sure ain’t no hotbed for recruits. It’s just hot!!

Drama Queens- Oh my, did any of the five of you see the LPGA’s first major of the year this past weekend held in Palm Springs? The drama on the last half of the final nine holes played was quite palpitating. Tension was so thick you could have cut it off, er, cut it with Lorena Bobbitt’s knife!

Let’s set the stage. Midway through the final nine holes of play Lexi Thompson held a two-stroke lead over playing partner Suzzanne Pettersen when the plot thickened. A television viewer had noticed that on Saturday, the day before, Thompson had marked her ball incorrectly on one of the greens. Said viewer contacted the officials, brought this to their attention and a four-stroke penalty was assessed to Thompson. Since “ain’t” is today’s presumptive word, I ain’t kidding you, my handful.

Lexi is informed of the penalty by officials while walking off of the tee box. The color drains from her face and tears flow. Stunned is too mild of a word to describe her feelings. All other participants are then clued into the penalty. Suddenly Lexi is brought back on the scoreboard to those whom were giving chase. In an instance she is two behind Pettersen and others on the course now have hope!

As if one was reading from a book of fiction Lexi summons the fortitude to somehow birdie the next hole after the assessment. It rattles Suzzanne and she bogeys it and they are now tied for the lead. Thompson has pulled up her bootstraps through tears of anguish and trudges onward.

South Korean So Yeon Ryu, who had been lurking throughout the debacle, miraculously overtakes Thompson and Petterson and birdies her way into a one-shot lead upon completion of her round. With the crowd chanting “Lexi, Lexi” and the golf nation on the edge of its collective seat Thompson somehow birdies eighteen and ties Ryu, forcing a playoff. Petterson, with a five-footer to join them, pulls it left and has to settle for a share of second place.

Alas, Lexi Thompson succumbed to So Yeon Ryu on the first extra hole. Lexi comported herself well due to the overwhelming circumstances. In this scribe’s watery eyes she is an inspiration to all and her perseverance on that day should give strength to those that fall into situations that seem hopeless.

In the end, the rules of golf were upheld in this instance, as hard as it was to believe. As in life, we must suffer consequences, but just how we recover from adversity is how character is formed. In this instance it was a tragedy that William Shakespeare would have marveled over, but one that Lexi Thompson overcame with aplomb.

By Michael Eliott

Michael ain’t marking his ball incorrectly on the green. He’s a bad enough player as is and can’t afford a tally of more strokes on his card. Ain’t happening. Your thoughts at sportsshorts8@gmail.com.

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