Around The Bases – Your trip around the world in sports for January 7, 2019

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The daily sports news cycle is crazier than ever. Don't have the stamina to keep up to speed? Around The Bases is your daily morning destination to stay in the know on the biggest stories in both local and professional sports. We’ll start at first base with an intriguing story or event, and bring you home with a must-read story in the North Peace sports scene.

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First Base - NBA grab bag

Welcome back to Around the Bases! It's been quite the break, but we're ready to dive into all the awesome sports news that's going around, especially with the NFL playoffs underway, the NCAA football championship tonight, and local hockey teams back in action. But first, let's take a look at a couple intriguing NBA stories. Kyle Lowry returned to the Raptors' lineup last night against the Indiana Pacers after missing 10 of the team's last 11 games. Kawhi Leonard was expected to play last night, but with Lowry returning, was able to sit the game out, and Lowry proved to be the spark the team needed to beat the surging Pacers, 121-105. Lowry had just 12 points but eight assists, and if he can get back to form, the Raptors should be able to go on another dominataing run this month. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Timberwolves made a surprising move yesterday by firing head coach and team president Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau was involved in drama with disgruntled forward Jimmy Butler all pre season, but eventually traded Butler. Turns out, it didn't matter and couldn't save Thibodeau's job. Minnesota was coming off a 108-86 win over the Lakers and are just two games out of the playoffs, but the team had made up it's mind. I can't really blame them, though I do find the timing to be a bit confusing. 

Second Base - Huskies, Trackers, Flyers return to action

The Fort St. John Huskies, Senior Flyers and NEBC Trackers all returned to game action after a long Christmas break this weekend. The Huskies hosted the Sexsmith Vipers for an easy 6-2 victory on Jan. 5, moving back into first place in the process. The Huskies have two home games this weekend, on Friday against the County of Grande Prairie Kings, and Saturday against the struggling North Peace Navigators. The Flyers, meanwhile, made the long trek to High Prairie, where despite having just 11 skaters, beat the last place team 9-5. Unfortunately, the Flyers are still third in the division, but have divisional games coming up against Grande Prairie and Dawson Creek next weekend where they could gain some ground. The Trackers began 2019 with a tough three-game trip to the Edmonton area, going 2-0-1. They beat both the Leduc Roughnecks and SSAC Don Wheaton 3-0, and tied the Beaumont Braves 4-4. That moves the Trackers to 17-2-2 with 36 points, tied with the St. Albert Crusaders for most in the NAHL. 

Third Base - Alabama faces Clemson tonight in NCAA football championship game

For the fourth straight year, the Alabama Crimson Tide will play the Clemson Tigers in a college football playoff game, starting at 5:30 p.m. This year's game is for the national title, the third time in four years it's been that way. The team's split the first two matchups. Both teams are undefeated this year, but Alabama is the higher seed and appears to have slight advantages on both sides of the ball, but this should be a very close game that either team can win. I'm very excited and can't wait for the game, though I dare not get my hopes up that Alabama will lose. Even when they look down and out, like they did in last year's championship game against Georgia, they still find a way to win. So even a close, dramatic game will be good enough for me. The good news is I think that's what we'll get. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is starting to appear like an equal to Nick Saban, and since both teams are so familiar with each other, we should see some tight defense early on with some surprising adjustments later on. 

Home Base - NFL wildcard round recap

The NFL playoffs began this weekend, and all the hype surrounding what looked to be a great first round proved true. Sure, the first game between the Colts and Texans was a bit of a dud, but by Saturday night, the Cowboys' strange and surprising 24-22 win over the Seahawks was entertaining and prepared us for a wild Sunday. The Chargers dominated the Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson all game long, but still only won 23-17, as Jackson seemed to wake up in the last five minutes. All the talk was if the Ravens should have switched to Joe Flacco. Perhaps putting him in at the start of the second half might have done the trick, but I'm glad they didn't. You won't be surprised to hear that I'm pulling for the Chargers against the New England Patriots next week. The final game of the night was perhaps the best, as the Philadelphia Eagles shocked the Chicago Bears, winning 16-15. The first half was a bit of a snore, but picked up in the second. The Bears took a five point lead in the fourth, but the Eagles, under Nick Foles, put on one of the most impressive drives you'll see, converting on third down twice and scoring a touchdown on fourth down to take the lead. Still, the Bears had a chance to win the game with a field goal, and were in excellent position to do so thanks to second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky making some great plays. Unfortunately, the Bears' kicker is Cody Parkey, who missed 10 kicks this year, five of which hit an upright. The odds of that happening aren't good, and the odds of him hitting an upright in the playoffs were even worse, yet that's what happened, as his 43-yard attempt went off both the left upright and the crossbar but didn't go in. It was hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time. The kick was indeed tipped, but that wasn't made clear to well after the game ended. In the end, the Eagles' miracle run under Nick Foles continues, and who am I to say they can't beat the New Orleans Saints next weekend?

Around the Bases runs Monday through Friday. If you have a news tip or story to share, email Dillon Giancola at sports@ahnfsj.ca

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