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Time Out For Sports: Getting Ready For The NFL Draft, Hornets Playoff Push And NCAA Soccer Tournaments Visit North Carolina

Carolina Panthers
Carolina Panthers

The NFL Draft is this week. Who will the Carolina Panthers select? The NBA playoffs are not that far off and the Charlotte Hornets are working hard to make the cut? Also, the men’s and women’s NCAA soccer tournament games will be played in North Carolina this week. With "All Things Considered" host Gwendolyn Glenn to talk sports is Langston Wertz Jr. a longtime sportswriter with The Charlotte Observer.

Langston Wertz Jr.: Hey Gwen, how are you?

Glenn: All is well. So let's start with the Carolina Panthers and the NFL Draft. They will be selecting eighth in the 2021 NFL Draft, right, Langston?

Wertz: That's correct. I think.

Glenn: Now, I read this in The Observer: the Panthers are the only team since 2009 that have not used a first-round pick on an offensive lineman, Langston. This is where they are weak and have been for a minute now. So, do you think they will change that and go for an offensive lineman pick this time around?

Wertz: Well, traditional thinking would say you have your quarterback, Sam Darnold, so now you go get your left tackle. And right now they don't have one long-term offensive line starter under contract. Taylor Moton's on a one-year deal. So who could the Panthers draft as a tackle in the first round? RaShawn Slater out of Northwestern, Penei Sewell out of Oregon, Christian Darrisaw out of Virginia Tech? The last two guys there, they can possibly get in No. 8.

Glenn: OK, so what about those Charlotte Hornets?

Announcer: “Just lost the ball, two seconds to go. Bridges gets it away … GOOD! Miles Bridges drills a 3 at the gun.”

Glenn: That was Miles Bridges hitting a 3 from nearly half-court at the end of the third quarter in Sunday's 125-104 win over the Boston Celtics. The Hornets had 39 assists, three short of the team's record in a game. Even without forward Gordon Hayward and guard LaMelo Ball, head coach James Borrego thinks this level of play can be sustained.

Hornets Head Coach James Borrego: We can always point back to this game no matter what happens the rest of the way. This is the standard. You know, when we go play Milwaukee on Tuesday night, it's got to look like this and it should look like this is what winning basketball looks like.

Wertz: I think the Hornets are going to make the playoffs. They're not going to finish 11th or worse. They have tiebreakers of the three teams around them in the standings. That's Miami, that's Indiana, that's Washington. And Gwen, they also have eight of the final 12 games at home and they're 16-12 at home. So I think there's no chance the Hornets don't make the playoffs

Glenn: Now, while still missing key players due to injuries, the Hornets have used forward PJ Washington as a small-ball center and he's responded well, scoring at least 20 points in four of his last five games. Here's what he had to say after the Hornets 108-102 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.

PJ Washington: We know how important these last games are, so for us we gotta go in every game with the same mentality we won with tonight, go in and guard people and make shots. That’s how you win games and how we’ve won all season — being aggressive on both ends.

Wertz: The Hornets sit right at .500 right now. And also the cavalry's coming back. You know, Malik Monk with an ankle and Gordon Hayward could come back with a foot next week and LaMelo Ball could come back any time. So if you can get your full team ready, they can make a run.

Glenn: OK, so this weekend the Davidson Wildcats were in the FCS playoffs against Jacksonville State.

Announcer: And another one here, 4th-and-goal inside the 1. Leaping and finding the end zone, touchdown Coy Williams. His seventh score of the year, and Davidson has a chance to tie it up.

Glenn: Langston, tell us how that game played out.

Wertz: It was kind of what we expected. Jacksonville State won 49-14. They scored a bunch in the first half. But it was a great season for Davidson making the playoffs coming out of Pioneer League finished the season 4-3. It's a great run for them.

Glenn: Staying with college sports. North Carolina will be hosting all of the NCAA men's and women's soccer tournament games this week. Langston, what men's teams from the Carolinas made the cut there?

Wertz: Seven on the men's side. Clemson's the top overall seed, they're in the tournament for the 33rd time. Hight Point, Wake Forest, Coastal Carolina, UNC-Greensboro, North Carolina and Charlotte are all in the tournament. And Gwen, UNC plays Charlotte on Sunday in a second-round game. And that's a rare meeting of two schools that definitely have a pretty heated rivalry.

Glenn: And on the women's side at 15-1 UNC-Chapel Hill is one of the two top seeds along with Florida State. Now, how do you think they will fare and who else from the Carolinas will be in the women's tournament?

Wertz: Well, UNC's the No. 2 overall seed, they were runner-ups the last two times this tournament has been played. They're a perennial power. I think they have a strong chance as anybody winning a national championship, they could run into Florida State somewhere along the line. Those two played a really close game earlier. You also have Duke is a No. 9 seed. Clemson is a No. 14, Elon and Campbell are also in the field. And they start playing Tuesday.

Glenn: And the games are in Cary, Wilmington, Greensboro and Matthews, which is just down the street.

Wertz: Absolutely.

Glenn: So the state high school football semifinals are this weekend with four local teams in the mix, including state champ Vance High. They will play against Myers Park Friday. Langston, tell us about this matchup and the other local team's games.

Wertz: Well, starting with the other games, Butler is going to Greensboro to play Greensboro Grimsley. Grimsley has one of the best teams in the state and one of the best players in the state. So they're going to have their hands full. Charlotte Catholic's going to play Monroe in the 3A semifinal. Monroe and Calica, longtime rivals in the Southern Carolina's conference.

And then getting back to the big game everybody wants to see is a Myers Park undefeated Mustangs never been to a state championship game. This is as far as they've ever gotten. Vance beat them in this round in 2018 and went to the first of what they hope is now three state championship appearances. So there's a lot on the line for both teams. I would expect it to be a low-scoring game as both teams have really strong defenses.

Glenn: OK. As always, thanks, Langston.

Wertz: Absolutely.

Langston Wertz Jr. is a veteran sportswriter for The Charlotte Observer.

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