By Stan J. Griffin: February 22, 2016

Photo by Stan J. Griffin

This Friday's final home meet of the regular season for the No. 3 University of Alabama gymnastics team is a momentous one for three extremely significant reasons.
First of all, it is Senior Night, meaning it will be the last time for Crimson Tide senior standouts Lauren Beers and Carley Sims to compete in a regular-season meet at venerable Coleman Coliseum.
Secondly, it is Alumni Night, where a host of athletes that helped to build and maintain the tradition-rich Alabama program are expected to be on hand, while the 1996 and 1991 Crimson Tide national championship gymnastics squads will also be celebrated. That 1991 title squad included former Crimson Tide All-American gymnast and current Alabama coach Dana Duckworth.
Last, but certainly not least, it is Alabama vs No. 10 arch-rival Georgia in the latest renewal of one of the most storied gymnastics rivalries, not only in the Southeastern Conference, but also nationally.
The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs are set to battle at 7:30 p.m., and the meet will be televised by SEC Network.
Duckworth said on Monday that Friday's showdown between the longtime SEC rivals, that have 16 national championships between them, definitely has special meaning for her.

By Stan J. Griffin: February 19, 2016

Photo by Stan J. Griffin

It is nearly impossible to measure the impact that Nick and Terry Saban have had on the University of Alabama campus, as well as the Tuscaloosa community in general since their arrival in 2007.
This not includes the four national championships that Nick Saban has been able to collect since becoming the head coach of the Alabama football program, including the recent 2015 national title, but also academically, and the hundreds of lives that the couple have been able to benefit through charitable entities such as the Nick's Kids Foundation.

That foundation is certainly close to the heart of Alabama's widely-respected football coach as it was established by the couple in 1998, while he was still the football coach at Michigan State University. It was named for his father, the late Nick Saban, Sr.

The good work of that foundation, which has distributed millions of dollars to deserving organizations and causes, was on display once again Friday, February 19 in the Alberta City area of Tuscaloosa as the Sabans were on hand to present a check for $100,000 to Habitat for Humanity for a new house being constructed on Juanita Drive.

That house, being built for Anthony and Angel Taylor and their two children, is being called the 16th National Championship House, in conjunction with Alabama's 16 national championships in football.

By Stan J. Griffin: February 18, 2016

Photo by Stan J. Griffin

After much anticipation and celebration, and a few random events over the past few weeks,"The New Joe" is finally ready for its official christening.

Mitch Gaspard's University of Alabama baseball team opens the 2016 season this weekend with a three-game home series against the Maryland Terrapins, and while the start of a new season always translates into much excitement and hope, there is definitely something extra special about this opening series for the Crimson Tide.

The series against Maryland will mark the first official games to be played in the recently-renovated Sewell-Thomas Stadium, and Gaspard said Wednesday he is equally excited about the season beginning and his team's dazzling new home ballpark.

By Stan J. Griffin: February 17, 2016

Photo by Stan J. Griffin

After playing its first five games of the 2016 season at the UCF Invitational in Orlando, Fla., Patrick Murphy's No. 5 Alabama softball team finally played its first in-state game Tuesday, battling the host UAB Blazers.
And those who attended were treated to a dazzling pitching display by all three Crimson Tide weapons in the circle.
That trio combined to throw the 26th no-hitter in program history, defeating UAB 7-0. Alabama improved to 5-1 with the victory.
Crimson Tide freshman Madi Moore (3-0) earned the win in the circle, throwing 4.1 hitless innings while junior Sydney Littlejohn and sophomore All-American Alexis Osorio combined with 2.2 hitless innings in relief. The Alabama offense backed up the stellar pitching effort with seven runs on seven hits, including the first career hit for freshman Merris Schroder. Kallie Case drove in two of the Tide’s seven runs while Sydney Booker scored twice.
UAB (1-5) had no answer to the Tide pitching staff, with JoJo Fallen as the Blazers’ only baserunner, drawing two walks. Starter Madison Hir (1-2) was one of four pitchers to see time in the game, taking the loss after 3.1 innings with three earned runs allowed.

By Stan J. Griffin: February 13, 2016

Thanks to a stunning display of poise and resiliency by Avery Johnson's Alabama basketball team Saturday in Gainesville, Fla., the Crimson Tide was able to keep one good streak going, while finally putting a halt to a couple of other streaks that were not quite so palatable.
Despite senior leaders Retin Obasohan and Arthur Edwards fouling out just seconds apart late in the second half against Mike White's Florida team, Alabama was able to hold on for a huge 61-55 victory over the Gators at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.
The Crimson Tide improved to 15-9 overall on the season and 6-6 in Southeastern Conference play as it extended its current win streak to four games. It also defeated Florida on its home court for the first time since 1995. Florida had also beaten Alabama 11 times in a row entering Saturday's contest.
The Gators fell to 16-9 overall and 7-5 in SEC play, as Alabama became the first conference team this season to defeat them at their home arena.
Led by the play of forward Michael Kessens, Alabama jumped to the early 8-2 advantage before the Gators scored six in a row to tie the contest at 8-8.
The game was back-and-forth after this, although both teams were relatively cold from the field.
Shannon Hale hit a trey to put the Tide up 13-10, but Florida, controlling the boards for the most part, scored four in a row to go up 14-13 at the 8:19 mark of the first half.
With Florida up 17-15, Obasohan hit a 3-point bomb to put the Tide up 18-17. Florida, though, used a 6-2 run after this to take a 23-20 lead at the 2:26 mark.

By Stan J. Griffin: February 11, 2016

After having lost former defensive coaches Kirby Smart and Mel Carter following its 2015 national championship season, the University of Alabama football program has a complete coaching staff once again.
Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban announced the hiring of Derrick Ansley to coach the defensive backs for the Crimson Tide.
“We are very happy to have Derrick and his family back at Alabama,” Saban said in a statement issued by UA. “Derrick did an outstanding job when he was with us as a graduate assistant, and he has a very good understanding of how we run our program and what is expected. He is a bright young coach, and he will be a great addition working with the defensive backs. We also believe he will be a tremendous asset to our staff in the recruiting process.”
“I have incredible admiration for The University of Alabama and the organization Coach Saban has built, especially after spending a couple of seasons here as a graduate assistant, which was instrumental in my development as a coach," added Ansley. "I am so appreciative of the opportunity Coach Saban is giving me because as a defensive coach it doesn’t get any better. Having grown up in the state of Alabama, I also have a tremendous understanding of the tradition and history of Crimson Tide football and what a special place it is to work. I look forward to doing my part to help continue the success this program has enjoyed.”

By Stan J. Griffin: February 9, 2016

With only seven remaining games left in the regular season, each contest down the stretch becomes much more critical for Avery Johnson's University of Alabama basketball team in its hopes of potentially qualifying for postseason play.
Having won three of its last four games, the Crimson Tide (13-9 overall and 4-6 in Southeastern Conference play) begins that important stretch Wednesday night as Billy Kennedy's No. 15/13 Texas A&M Aggies (18-5, 7-3) pay a visit to Coleman Coliseum.
The Aggies, meanwhile, enter the game looking to rebound from an 81-78 home loss to Missouri this past Saturday.
Wednesday's clash is set for a 6 p.m. tip and will be televised by SEC Network.
Johnson said Tuesday he looks forward to seeing his team return to the court against a very talented and experienced Aggie squad led by the senior trio of guard Alex Caruso, guard Danuel House and guard/forward Jalen Jones.
"Excited about playing another game at home in front of what we hope is going to be a good crowd tomorrow," he said. "I had lunch on campus today, and just to see the excitement with our student body is pretty impressive. Hopefully we'll be able to get off to a good start, and Texas A&M is an outstanding team, and I know they've lost a few games here recently in conference, but they're an outstanding team and they were the best team, record-wise, in our conference for awhile. But they're still one of the top two teams in our conference. They're going to be fired up coming in and trying to get a win, and we're going to do our best to try to protect our home court and continue to trend upwards."
He noted that the Aggies have one of the better nine-man playing rotations in the conference.

By Stan J. Griffin: February 8, 2016

Photo by Stan J. Griffin

For the No. 4 University of Alabama gymnastics team, the midseason point has arrived, with its first six meets now out of the way.
And although Dana Duckworth's team (3-3 overall, and 3-2 in Southeastern Conference competition) is a bit banged up, much like many other squads around the nation at this point, there are still five meets left before the Crimson Tide competes at the SEC Championship on March 19 at North Little Rock, Ark.
Two of those meets are set for this coming weekend, as Alabama will battle arch-rival Auburn on the Plains on Friday night, and then will turn around and square off against West Virginia at Coleman Coliseum on Sunday (3 p.m.).
Duckworth said Monday that she feels her squad is in fairly good shape for this juncture of the season.
"We are halfway there, and there are typical banged-up little things here and there and (athletic trainer) Monica Kirkpatrick is doing a phenomenal job and making sure we stay consistent with our treatments, our massages, our rehab and trying to get as much rest,"  she said. "Last week (the time spent on training leading up to this past Friday's meet against Kentucky) wasn't nearly as much as it should have been, and I think that's what really translated when I said (to the media) that we kind of competed how we practiced. That's why I'm not that upset because we're putting more time in this week, and by the design of our schedule, we kind of had to do that. We had to give them that downloading week to now build back up. We're pretty healthy, and we've got (senior) Carley (Sims) coming back (from an ankle procedure) and we've got some issues that we've got to keep going in the right direction. We still have to watch (junior Amanda) Jetter's ankle and we still have to watch (freshman) Ari (Guerra's) ankle and we have to watch (sophomore) Kiana (Winston's) hamstring and the list goes on and it gets scary, but it's all manageable."

Students at Tuscaloosa Academy have been incredibly busy with studies and extracurricular activities, and they’ve been excelling at both.

TA student Harper Blount was a state winner in the University of Alabama’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” high school essay contest, which seeks to commemorate the legacy of Harper Lee and her celebrated novel.

Congratulations are also in order to the Tuscaloosa Academy Knights’ Junior Varsity basketball team for winning the Alabama Independent School Association’s junior varsity boys’ basketball championship, and for going undefeated for the season.   

By Stan J. Griffin: February 4, 2016

It is easy for fans and media to get caught up in statistics, and especially won-loss records when it comes to team sports.
But you will definitely not find any member of the University of Alabama gymnastics program moaning or hanging her head regarding the Crimson Tide's current 2-3 record.
Gymnastics is one of those unique sports where scores, and not actual wins and losses, are the critical elements toward determining which teams will qualify for postseason competition down the road.
And thanks to several highlights last Friday in its meet against No. 1 Florida, including tallying the nation's best road score this season and gaining the fifth-best mark on the balance beam in the program's proud history, the Alabama gymnasts actually moved up a spot in the national rankings to No. 4 despite a loss to the Gators in Gainesville.
Dana Duckworth's squad returns to the friendly confines of Coleman Coliseum Friday night as it hosts No. 25 Kentucky in the program's 12th-annual Power of Pink meet at 7 p.m.
This special night, established by legendary former Alabama coach Sarah Patterson, was designed to raise awareness regarding the fight against breast cancer.  Coleman Coliseum will be decked out in pink, and the UA gymnasts will also wearing pink leotards. Breast cancer survivors will also be recognized before the meet against the Wildcats.
Although the focus for the Crimson Tide is now putting forth a strong performance against Kentucky, junior Aja Sims said she was pleased overall with Alabama's performance against the top-ranked Gators last Friday.

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Lake Tuscaloosa Living (LTL) is the premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.


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