Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Motorsports Club Pays Tribute to Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brad Brown

BradBrown06 This last Saturday, March 16, general news reporter Monique Ching and I covered a memorial service for Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brad Brown. This was no ordinary service. Sgt. Brown was a founding member of the San Angelo chapter of the Number One Stunnas motorsport club, an organization consisting of over 30 chapters all over the country. While riding his motorcycle with friends on March 10, Sgt. Brown lost control of his bike and hit a reflector poll about two miles west of San Angelo. He was taken to Shannon Medical Center were he died from his injuries. Sgt. Brown joined the Air Force in 2001 and had been stationed at Goodfellow AFB since 2010 where he was a firefighting instructor.

Sgt. Brown's family came in from Colorado Springs, Colorado for a private ceremony on the base, but the motorsport club wanted to pay tribute to there fallen brother in their own special way, by holding a memorial ride in his honor which we were invited to attend.

BradBrown04 BradBrown05 BradBrown03 BradBrown01 There must have been nearly 200 people gathered in the parking lot of Family Power Sports Saturday evening.The ride would be about 45 miles long ending at the crash site where a candlelight vigil would be held. But before everyone mounted their motorcycles and hopped into their mustangs, a few words were spoken by Sgt. Brown's older sister, Erin Shultz. Standing in the middle of a circle of people linked arm-in-arm, Erin expressed her gratitude to Sgt. Brown's friends, military brothers and sisters and fellow club members who were his family away from home. While addressing the crowd, she clutched an ornate, triangular wooden box that contained the folded American flag presented to the family during the private ceremony on the base.

Before Shultz finished her speech, she called to the middle of the circle Jen Tipton, Sgt. Brown's fiancee, who he was supposed to be married to this week. The two women embraced and Shultz looked directly at Tipton and finished her speech by saying, "On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation, I would like to present to you this flag ..." There wasn't a dry eye in the house, me included. After the two women finished their tearful moment, instructions were given to those who would be making the ride out to the crash site. And with that, motorcycles lining the street roared to life and idled ready for the ride.

BradBrown07 BradBrown02 Monique and I decided that we would go ahead of the group to the crash site and wait for the them to come to us. The site was just two miles west of San Angelo on a deserted spot on FM 853 and marked with a small iron cross from which hung Sgt. Brown's firefighter instructor's helmet. After about 40 minutes we started to hear the roar of engines off in the distance and the first wave of riders came over the hill just as the light of the setting sun turned the sky a fiery red and orange.

Once all the vehicles had pulled to the side of the road, the mass of people gathered around the helmet and lit their candles. There were a few tears and some shared memories of Sgt. Brown. By all accounts, Sgt. Brown seemed to be well loved and admired. After a moment of silence, the group began to disperse, making the two mile trip back to town. The ride was a nice act of showing admiration for a loyal friend, simple and down to earth. Even in his short life, Sgt. Brown seemed to be able to touch and make a difference to those around him. And in turn, they honored him in the best way they knew how. We should all be so lucky.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

2013 High School Basketball Playoffs: Water Valley vs. Douglass State Semifinal

WVstate10 This is it. We finally made it to the state basketball tournament in Austin with the Water Valley boys basketball team. I really had high hopes that this was going to be a good game against No. 9 Douglass at the Frank Erwin Center on the campus of the University of Texas. Surely, if the Wildcats could fend off the offensive onslaught of No. 17 Crowell back in the regional semifinal then they could hang with just about anyone. After the Nation Anthem, the team introductions and a long introduction of every referee at the tournament, the tip-off for the state semifinal was underway.

Right from the beginning I noticed that this was not the same Water Valley team I've been following for the past two weeks. Where was the defensive aggressiveness, the run-and-shoot team I was used to? They were not in control of the momentum of the game. Douglass kept the speed of the game low and capitalized on possessions scoring almost at will behind the tandem of brothers Reed and Bryce Westbrook. Maybe the Wildcats had a different plan heading into the game, but it seemed like their spark was gone.

WVstate03 WVstate05 WVstate04 WVstate08 I wasn't until about a minute remaining in the third quarter, the Wildcats trailed by 18 points (40-22), that the style of their team began to emerge.Water Valley is really good on the fast break and can be very dangerous from three-point range. Connor Copley hit a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left in the third quarter which sparked a 10-2 run. Water Valley hit six 3-pointers in the fourth and turned up the intensity on defense, but Douglass was a force to be reckoned with. Water Valley just couldn't get over Douglass' first half scoring surge and ended their season with a 53-44 loss. Their final record for the year was 33-3 and a third place finishers medal.

It's heartbreaking to watch these kids who I have come to admire over the past two weeks so upset with the outcome of the game. They play clean, aggressive basketball and on those attributes alone, they deserve to play in the final. But it wasn't to be. If there is any consolation, they will only lose one starting player, senior Colten Zuniga, and should be in great shape to make a deep run in the playoffs next year. It was fun while it lasted, but as we all know, all good things must come to an end. Congratulations Water Valley on a great season, and I look forward to next year.

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Friday, March 8, 2013

2013 High School Basketball Playoffs: Water Valley vs. Throckmorton

WVvsThrockmorton11 So it's back to Moody Coliseum for the regional final as Water Valley takes on Throckmorton for a chance to play in the state tournament in Austin. I had a good feeling about this game as I walked into the coliseum because I had a chance to see a little bit of Throckmorton play the day before. They were not as fast as Crowell, they didn't shoot better than Crowell and they certainly didn't play defense like Crowell. Water Valley was going to walk all over them.

To save you readers out there a little bit of time I'll be brief in the matters of game statistics and highlights. Lets just say that Water Valley came out and dominated from the very start. The Wildcats dropped five 3-pointers in the first quarter en route to a 33-24 cushion at the half. The Wildcats went on a 7-0 run in the third quarter to go up 40-24 and led by as much as 24 in the fourth. As you've probably guessed, Water Valley won convincingly with a 62-43 win. I'm very excited to be heading back to Austin with a local team to cover. See you in Austin!

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

2013 High School Basketball Playoffs: Water Valley vs. Crowell

WVvsCrowell02 It's getting down to the wire in the 2013 high school boys basketball playoffs and we still have one team left in our coverage area in the hunt for a state championship: The Wildcats of Water Valley. They are currently ranked No. 2 in Class 1A Division II and they have not lost to another Class 1A team all year. Last week they were playing in the regional tournament at Moody Coliseum in Abilene. Everyone on the sports staff had high hopes for the Wildcats heading into regionals because they were our last chance to cover a game at the state tournament in Austin. The first opponent for Water Valley was Crowell, ranked No. 17 in the state, but probably should have ranked higher because they knocked off No. 3-ranked Eula earlier in the week.

WVvsCrowell09 WVvsCrowell01 WVvsCrowell03 WVvsCrowell07 Water Valley led 9-8 after the first quarter and increased their lead to 24-17 heading into the locker room at the half. Everything seemed to be going according to plan for the Wildcats. At the beginning of the fourth quarter Water Valley still had the lead at 34-27. Here's when things start to get interesting.

Crowell decided to make a hard push to the finish led by standout guard Mitchell Parsley. In the previous game against Eula, Parsley uncorked 35 points en route to the win. With 1:25 remaining in the fourth quarter Parsley hit a jumper to give Crowell a late 44-43 lead. But it was the cool head of Water Valley's Trae Hannon that kept the Wildcats in the game. Hannon rebounded the ball and raced to the other end of the court where he was fouled. He hit both free throws to put the Wildcats up by one. Hannon hit four more free throws in the last minute to put the Wildcats up 49-46. Crowell had one last chance to stay in the game with an inbound pass from under their own basket with 1.5 seconds. The pass came in straight to Mitchell Parsley who had a good look and let it fly from the 3-point line. The arena went silent as everyone in the building held their breath watching the ball travel on its slow arch toward the basket. The ball bounced twice on the front of the rim and casually rolled off.

The Water Valley fans went nuts. This is the furthest the Water Valley boys basketball team had ever been. They would be playing in the regional final against Ira or Throckmorton for a chance to play in the state tournament. What a great game and congratulations to the Wildcats.

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Early Morning Blaze Levels Warehouse

WarehouseFire01 Wow. Its only been about a week since Catfish Corner, a local eatery here in San Angelo, burned to the ground that another massive fire had the fire department on full alert. Last Thursday I was sitting up late watching television when my phone begins to chime from an incoming text from my boss. It simply read, "Palmer Feed is on fire." Well, now I was in a little bit of a conundrum. I could follow the directions given to me in next text which said to follow up in the morning when I got into work, or I could get out there now while there is an active fire and see if I could get some action photos. I decided that I would go ahead and go out to the scene and see what the real damage was going be. Besides, how many reruns of Duck Dynasty does a person really need to watch anyway?

I gathered up my gear and walked out the door to the car. It was essentially a clear and very cold night but I could see off in the distance that a low cloud bank was moving in. Or at least I thought it was a cloud bank. As I drove closer to the scene I realized that it was not clouds moving in, but actually all the smoke from the fire drifting over half the city from the blaze. I suddenly realized this was going to be a big fire.

WarehouseFire05 WarehouseFire03 WarehouseFire02 WarehouseFire04 I arrived on scene at about 12:30am, put CF cards in my cameras and set out on the 300-yard hike across a small field and railroad tracks to what appeared to be a large warehouse. I passed a few bystanders taking photos and video on their phones on my way to the fire. One of the cool aspects of my job is that I get a little better access to certain things than the general public. I quickly found San Angelo civic events manager Anthony Wilson and he told me that the warehouse actually belonged to a company called Lone Star Moving, a local house and apartment moving company, and it was full of stuff. I couldn't help but feel sorry for the people who were going to lose belongings in the fire. It looked like every fire house was called in to keep the blaze contained as the entire building was surrounded by personnel.

I ended up staying on the scene for about two hours circling the building several times trying to find different angles to shot the action. I eventually sent a text to my boss saying that I was leaving and would transmit photos of the fire to the office from home. When it was all said and done, I finished around 4:00 in the morning and crawled into bed. Eventually we learned that a homeless man had been arrested in connection with the blaze.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

2013 High School Basketball Playoffs: Wall vs. Merkel

WallMerkel07Because the Wall High School Lady Hawks won their regional semifinal game against Childress the night before, sports writer Carlos Silva and I headed back to Midland College's Chaparral Center for the final against Merkel. This game was going to be much different than the one the day before. Merkel, No. 2 in the state, boasted two post players who where at least six-feet tall and had a chip on their shoulders from last year when Wall upset them in the regional quarterfinals.

It was more or less a role reversal from the game a day before as Merkel outscored Wall 14-3 in the first quarter. Many of Merkel's points came from put-back shots under the basket from their six-foot players. Wall did manage to make a dent in the deficit, but still trailed 27-14 at the half.

WallMerkel01 WallMerkel03 WallMerkel05 The second half of the game was all Merkel.Wall just couldn't find a way to challenge them on rebounds or shot accuracy. The Lady Hawks managed to get within 15 points late in the fourth, but with two minutes left and being out rebounded 39-17 by Merkel, it was pretty much over. The Lady Hawks' season came to an end with the 48-30 loss. This was the second year in a row that Wall fell one game short of going to the state tournament in Austin. It was fun while it lasted and now the sports staff and I turn our attention to the remaining boys teams still playing.

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