Crunch Time For Hornets, Carolina Hurricanes Win Division And An Epic Wells Fargo Tournament
It's the final week of the regular season for the Charlotte Hornets. It's playoff time for the Carolina Hurricanes and two local high school football teams win state championships. 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 it's crunch time for the Charlotte Hornets.
(recording) Eric Collins: Overplay by LaMelo, forced a bad pass and Johnson has to fire. ... Oh! He hit it!
Glenn: The Hornets lost Sunday to the New Orleans Pelicans 110-112. Now, currently, they hold a one-game lead over the Washington Wizards for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Langston, the NBA has made some changes to their playoff format this season. Why is it important for the Hornets to stay in that eighth position?
Wertz: Well, if you're in the seventh/eighth position when they have this play-in tournament, you have two chances to get into the playoffs. You can lose one, but then come back and win. If you play in the nine and 10, it's one and done. So, the Hornets definitely don't want to slide to nine and 10. They want to lock in one of the seven-eight spots and that's why the loss yesterday to New Orleans was so big, they were really getting close to having a chance to lock in that eight spot in the East.
Glenn: And, also Langston, rookie minicamp for the Panthers begins at the end of the week. Will fans be allowed? And who are the standouts to watch?
Wertz: No fans allowed. It's going to be interesting. Sixth-round pick wide receiver Shi Smith needs to have a good camp, Gwen, because he's looking at a No. 5 role at best. You don't have very much room to drop. And then there's a guy like Dayvion Nelson who was picked in the fifth round. He's a defensive tackle. You want to see what he looks like on the field because he's one of those guys, they could become, you know, a really good NFL player.
Glenn: Well, let's move on to the Carolina Hurricanes.
(recording) Mike Maniscalco: And the Hurricanes go up 1-0.
Glenn: The Carolina Hurricanes secured the Central Division last week, losing only three games at home all season. Langston, what are the chances of winning the Stanley Cup this season?
Wertz: I think they're good, Gwen. They're 36-11-8 overall. They have 80 points and are tied with the Vegas Golden Knights for the most points in the NHL. By having the most points, you can get home ice throughout the playoffs. I think at the very least, you're going to see a deep playoff run. Would not shock me one single bit to see them in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Glenn: The Hurricanes will be facing the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. What do you think that matchup will look like?
Wertz: They've handled the Predators pretty well all season. The Predators with the No. 4 seed. They do have a good record at 30-23-2. But I would expect six games at most in the first-round series.
(recording) Jim Nantz: The roars have returned to golf!
Glenn: And that's sound from the PGA Wells Fargo tournament at Quail Hollow that Rory McIlroy won on Sunday right here in Charlotte. It is his third time winning the tournament. Give us some highlights.
Wertz: Well, he shot a 3-under 68, Gwen. He was two shots down to Keith Mitchell coming into the final round. But Rory was in control, Gwen, coming into the 18th hole, the final hole, which has a little creek down the left side. I played that hole many times and put many balls in that creek and Rory hit a big 300-yard hook. It was like buried in grass. He really couldn't even hit it sideways. So he took a drop, which means you say I'm going to take a penalty.
So now he's hitting his third shot, so he needs to make a bogey to win the tournament. He had this towering 8-iron on to the green, two-putted, won the tournament, tossed his ball into the crowd ho-hum. Three-time champion at Wells Fargo, Rory loves Charlotte and Charlotte loves Rory.
Glenn: OK, and McIlroy took home almost $ 1.5 million for that win. Not a bad day's work.
Wertz: Not at all. I'll take that check.
Glenn: Me, too. And as for other big wins, two Charlotte football teams brought home state championships this weekend.
Glenn: Those are cheers from fans at the Vance High School Cougars 4AA state championship 35-14 win over Rolesville. Here's what their coach, Glenwood Ferebee, told you last night after the game.
(recording) Glenwood Ferebee: Just happy man, because at one point we didn't think we'd have a season. So to be able to get this done, there's going to be a special one that I remember for a long time.
Wertz: Gwen, Vance had a phenomenal defensive performance in this game. They allow for yards of offense in the second half against a team who was previously undefeated, had a phenomenal offense, one of the best quarterbacks in the state, Aaron Brown. The only problem they had was penalties. They had 23 penalties for almost 200 yards. And that just can't do. But, you know, they just dominated the game. I mean, there was no doubt it was the best team in North Carolina this year.
Glenn: And the crowd was just as excited as Charlotte Catholic brought home the state trophy by defeating Havelock 14 to 7 for the 3A state championship. Here's what players Leon Barbee, Paul Neal and Connor Doherty told you Langston about winning the big one for the fourth time:
Going four-for-four is something that doesn't happen every day.
Yeah, it's pretty mind-blowing.
It's the same goal each here and works all year. This incredible game.
Honestly, we just showed out, came out on top.
Yeah. I mean, Catholic's won four in a row, Gwen. They won five out of six years, there's is as dominant a program as you have in North Carolina. You know, hats off to Coach Mike Broadwitz and that team for doing what they did. I mean, Havelock was averaging 52 points a game. And just like Vance, they had a phenomenal defensive performance to hold him to seven points. It was amazing. And Catholic is an amazing program. They don't have stars. They don't have these guys are going to the ACC, but they just win year after year after year tradition. You know, these kids started doing it in the third grade. They want to play in high school and it works.