4-14-22 roundup: Pro basketball, baseball and soccer, College football, High school baseball and softball, Middle school baseball and girls soccer

By Richard Walker

After improving by 10 wins but getting blown out in the play-in tournament for a second straight year, Charlotte Hornets fans almost certainly have mixed feelings about the franchise’s future.

LaMelo Ball fields questions from reporters at Thursday’s end-of-season news conference at Spectrum Center.

Has improvement from 23 wins in the 2019-20 season to 33 victories last year to 43 wins this season mean the trend of improvement is certain to continue?

Or does having an injury-plagued highest paid player and a leaky defense that’s allowed 27- and 29-point blowout losses in back-to-back years give cause for concern?

No matter what side you’re on, it seems likely owner Michael Jordan’s organization will make at least some changes – and some could be considered major.

National outlets in the last week have reported the Hornets could have an interest in acquiring multi-time All-Star guard Russell Westbrook from the Los Angeles Lakers. Other reports say team general manager Mitch Kupchak’s contract that runs out at the end of this season will not renewed.

For their part during Thursday’s season-ending media availability, Hornets coach James Borrego and his players offer varying levels of desire to keep the current team together in hopes that familiarity will continue to fuel the team’s improvement.

“We have something good brewing here,” was backup guard Kelly Oubre, Jr.’s assessment of the Hornets.

And Borrego and his players praised the team’s locker room and the culture of development that has been built.

However, in a league where very little remains status quo, the franchise has some significant decisions to make moving forward.

Most notably, what does the team do with restricted free agent Miles Bridges?

Bridges has improved every year he’s been in the league and this season led Charlotte in games (80), starts (80) and scoring average (20.2) while also averaging 7.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.

The Hornets have the right to match any contract he might receive – and one national report on Thursday indicated he could command a four-year, $173 million offer that would give him the highest average salary in franchise history.

There’s also questions surrounding the future of the team’s current highest-paid player, Gordon Hayward.

After completing the second year of a four-year, $120 million contract he signed with the Hornets before the 2020-21 season, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if Hayward will ever enjoy a fully healthy season.

After missing 28 of 72 games last season, Hayward missed 33 of 82 games this season and even did his postseason media interviews while wearing a cast on his injured left foot that cost him 27 of the last 28 games of the year, including the play-in game.

Hayward has now missed 162 regular season games the last five seasons since suffering a fractured left tibia and dislocated left ankle in the 2017-18 season opener; Hayward had missed 58 games in the first seven seasons of his career.

“You can’t predict someone rolling on to your foot,” Hayward said. “It sucks to watch the game and not be out there.”

Perhaps most important to the franchise’s future success, can LaMelo Ball continue to improve and become a star in the NBA after making his first All-Star Game this season?

The 2020-21 NBA Rookie of the Year who turns 21 in August, Ball improved his scoring average from 15.7 to 20.1, his rebounding average from 5.9 to 6.7 and his assist average from 6.1 to 7.6 this season as a full time starter.

Other key pieces on this year’s team were Terry Rozier (19.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists), Oubre (15.0 points) and Montrezl Harrell (11.4 points, 4.9 rebounds), P.J. Washington (10.3 points, 5.2 rebounds), Cody Martin (7.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists) and Mason Plumlee (6.5 points, team-high 7.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists).

Bridges is a restricted free agent and Harrell and Martin are unrestricted free agents.

Meanwhile, as Borrego says, the future of the franchise could well be determined by the development of 2021-22 rookies like James Bouknight, Kai Jones and J.T. Thor.

“It’s about internal development, internal growth,” Borrego said.

Bouknight (21.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists), Jones (18.2 points, 10.8 rebounds) and Thor (12.0 points, 5.6 rebounds) had brief but impressive stints with the Hornets’ Greensboro Swarm G-League affiliate this season.



Pro basketball

Here’s the schedule for this week’s NBA play-in tournament:

(Tuesday’s games)
East-7 Brooklyn 115, East-8 Cleveland 108 (Brooklyn becomes East-7)
West-7 Minnesota 109, West-8 L.A. Clippers 104 (Minnesota becomes West-7)

(Wednesday’s games)
East-9 Atlanta 132, East-10 Charlotte 103
West-10 San Antonio at West-9 New Orleans, 9:30 p.m.

(Friday’s games)
Atlanta at Cleveland, 7:30 p.m. (winner becomes East-8)
Wednesday’s 9:30 p.m. winner at L.A. Clippers, 10 p.m. (winner becomes West-8)

Here’s the schedule for upcoming NBA playoffs:

(Eastern Conference)
1-Miami vs. 8-TBD
Game 1 at Miami: April 17
Game 2 at Miami: April 19
Game 3 at East-8: April 22
Game 4 at East-8: April 24
Game 5 (if necessary) at Miami: April 26
Game 6 (if necessary) at East-8: April 28
Game 7 (if necessary) at Miami: April 30

4-Philadelphia vs. 5-Toronto
Game 1 at Philadelphia: April 16
Game 2 at Philadelphia: April 18
Game 3 at Toronto: April 20
Game 4 at Toronto: April 23
Game 5 (if necessary) at Philadelphia: April 25
Game 6 (if necessary) at Toronto: April 28
Game 7 (if necessary) at Philadelphia: April 30

2-Boston vs. 7-Brooklyn
Game 1 at Boston: April 17
Game 2 at Boston: April 20
Game 3 at Brooklyn: April 23
Game 4 at Brooklyn: April 25
Game 5 (if necessary) at Boston: April 27
Game 6 (if necessary) at Brooklyn: April 29
Game 7 (if necessary) at Boston: May 1

3-Milwaukee vs. 6-Chicago
Game 1 at Milwaukee: April 17
Game 2 at Milwaukee: April 20
Game 3 at Chicago: April 22
Game 4 at Chicago: April 24
Game 5 (if necessary) at Milwaukee: April 27
Game 6 (if necessary) at Chicago: April 29
Game 7 (if necessary) at Milwaukee: May 1

(Western Conference)
1-Phoenix vs. 8-TBD
Game 1 at Phoenix: April 17
Game 2 at Phoenix: April 19
Game 3 at West-8: April 22
Game 4 at West-8: April 24
Game 5 (if necessary) at Phoenix: April 26
Game 6 (if necessary) at West-8: April 28
Game 7 (if necessary) at Phoenix: April 30

4-Dallas vs. 5-Utah
Game 1 at Dallas: April 16
Game 2 at Dallas: April 18
Game 3 at Utah: April 21
Game 4 at Utah: April 23
Game 5 (if necessary) at Dallas: April 25
Game 6 (if necessary) at Utah: April 28
Game 7 (if necessary) at Dallas: April 30

2-Memphis vs. 7-Minnesota
Game 1 at Memphis: April 16
Game 2 at Memphis: TBA
Game 3 at Minnesota: TBA
Game 4 at Minnesota: TBA
Game 5 (if necessary) at Memphis: TBA
Game 6 (if necessary) at Minnesota: TBA
Game 7 (if necessary) at Memphis: TBA

3-Golden State vs. 6-Denver
Game 1 at Golden State: April 16
Game 2 at Golden State: April 18
Game 3 at Denver: April 21
Game 4 at Denver: April 24
Game 5 (if necessary) at Golden State: April 27
Game 6 (if necessary) at Denver: April 29
Game 7 (if necessary) at Golden State: May 1




Ashbrook’s John Derricott signs with Winston-Salem State.

College football

Two Ashbrook High standout signed scholarships on Wednesday – John Derricott (Winston-Salem State) and Chandler Meeks (North Carolina Wesleyan).






High school baseball

(Thursday’s results)
South Point 22, Ashbrook 4

Burns 6, East Gaston 1

West Lincoln 11, West Caldwell 1 (6 innings)

Rock Hill, S.C. Northwestern 12, Lincoln Charter 4: The Eagles finished fifth in the York, S.C. Easter tournament.

Davidson Day 11, Gaston Day 5

East Lincoln 13, Bandys 8

East Lincoln 13, Foard 3 (6 innings on Wednesday): Reliever Issac Armstrong struck out four in three scoreless innings for the victory and Armstrong (2-4, 2 runs), Garrett Michel (4 walks, 3 intentional, 1 hit batter, 2 runs), Gavin Houser (2-4, 4 RBIs), Trey Spees (2-4, 2 runs) and Graham Smiley (1-3, 1 runs, 2 RBIs) led the East Lincoln offense.

Ashbrook’s Chandler Meeks signs with North Carolina Wesleyan




High school softball

(Thursday’s results)
Cherryville 13, Highland Tech 4

Burns 5, East Gaston 1: Sayge Strange (10 strikeouts), Laylah Haynes (1-2, RBI), Chloe Hull (1-3, triple, 2 RBIs), Meah Ivie (1-3, RBI) and Hunter Morgan (1-3, RBI) led Burns.

East Lincoln 6, Foard 0 (Wednesday): Leah Correll and Madison Currence combined for the four-hitter with 13 strikeouts and Taniyah Thomas (3 singles, stolen base, 2 runs), Taliyah Thomas (home run), Currence (2 singles, 2 stolen bases, 1 RBI, 2 runs), Bailey Hardin (2 singles, 1 RBI), Jaelyn Freeston (single), Morgan Summey (2 singles, 1 run) led the offense for East Lincoln (16-0, 11-0), which is off for Easter break until an April 26 game at St. Stephens.









Middle school baseball

(Thursday’s result)
Bessemer City 13, York Chester 6





Middle school girls soccer

(Thursday’s result)
York Chester 1, Bessemer City 0: Lorena Plata Garcia scored on a penalty kick for York Chester.






Pro baseball

The Charlotte Knights will celebrate the legacy of Negro Leagues Baseball with its 7th Annual Negro Leagues Tribute at Truist Field on Friday.

The date will coincide with the the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball on April 15, 1947.

Friday’s game will feature three former Negro League players on-hand to meet fans and sign autographs – Rock Hill, S.C. native Wali Cathcart, Sam Allen and Larry LeGrande.

In addition, Johnson C. Smith University will have a table on the concourse to showcase the history of the school’s baseball program, Negro Leagues ambassador Ray Banks will bring his customized historical museum from Baltimore and local Negro Leagues historian Michael Turner Webb will be in attendance.





Pro soccer

Here’s the full Charlotte FC schedule for the 2022 season (with results):

Feb. 26 at D.C. (L 0-3)
March 5, L.A. (L 0-1)
March 13, at Atlanta (L 1-2)
March 19, New England (W 3-1)
March 26, Cincinnati (W 2-0)
April 2, at Philadelphia (L 0-2)
April 10, Atlanta (W 1-0)
April 16, at New England, 7:30 p.m.
April 23, at Colorado, 9 p.m.
April 30, at Orlando, 7:30 p.m.
May 7, Miami, 3:30 p.m.
May 14, Montreal, 7 p.m.
May 22, Vancouver, 5 p.m.
May 29, at Seattle, 9:30 p.m.
June 11, New York, 3 p.m.
June 18, at Columbus, 7:30 p.m.
June 25, at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
June 30, Austin, 7 p.m.
July 3, at Houston, 8:30 p.m.
July 9, Nashville, 7 p.m.
July 16, at Miami, 8 p.m.
July 23, at Toronto, 7:30 p.m.
July 30, Columbus, 7 p.m.
August 3, D.C., 7 p.m.
August 6, Chicago, 7 p.m.
August 13, at LAFC, 10:30 p.m.
August 17, at New York City, TBD
August 21, Orlando, 7 p.m.
August 27, Toronto, 7 p.m.
September 3, at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.
September 10, New York City, 7 p.m.
September 17, at Chicago, 8 p.m.
October 1, Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
October 9, at New York, TBD