GWINNETT GRADS: Locals open women’s tourney this weekend

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is already in full swing, but the women, including a handful of Gwinnett grads, get their turn this weekend.

First-round play begins in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament today and Sunday, with most of the Gwinnett products playing games on Sunday.

Here’s a look at when to catch the local players in the women’s tourney:

• Antionette Howard, Purdue

The South Gwinnett product is the only Gwinnett player who begins the tourney today, when the fourth-seeded Boilermakers take on No. 13 South Dakota State in West Lafayette, Ind.

Howard, a 6-foot senior, hasn’t started a game this season, but she’s the top reserve for Purdue. She is averaging 6.6 points and 3.9 rebounds.

With a win, Purdue would face the South Carolina-Eastern Michigan winner in the second round.

• Anne Marie Armstrong, Georgia

An All-SEC selection, Armstrong is playing the best basketball of her college career this season.

The 6-foot-3 Wesleyan grad has picked up her play on the defensive end, earning All-SEC defensive team honors after averaging 2.3 steals per game. The junior also is averaging 11.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals.

The fourth-seeded Bulldogs open the NCAAs Sunday against No. 13 Marist in Tallahassee. The St. Bonaventure-Florida Gulf Coast winner awaits in the second round.

• Tiffany Clarke, Vanderbilt

The 6-foot junior is one of the SEC’s top interior players despite averaging barely more than 21 minutes. In that short time span, the Norcross grad averages 11.5 points and 7.4 rebounds while making 57.6 percent of her shots.

No. 7 Vandy’s tourney opener is Sunday vs. No. 10 Middle Tennessee State in Nashville. A second-round showdown likely awaits with second-seeded Duke, which has Samford in the opener.

• Jordan Jones, Florida

Still a great 3-point shooter — she has made 66 this season — the Collins Hill grad has developed her all-around game in recent seasons.

Jones rarely leaves the floor (team-high 31.1 minutes per game) and is averaging 11.6 points (second on the team) and 3.7 rebounds.

The ninth-seeded Gators play No. 8 Ohio State on Sunday in Bowling Green. With a win, their tough draw likely leads to a game vs. No. 1 Baylor and 6-foot-8 All-American Brittney Griner in the second round.


Knapp, Sheehy earn All-American honors

Newberry College (S.C.) wrestlers Taylor Knapp and Travis Sheehy, both Gwinnett grads, earned NCAA Division II All-American honors last weekend.

Knapp, from Collins Hill, placed fourth nationally at 157 pounds and Sheehy, from North, was sixth at 174.

Knapp had a 24-11 record in his first season at Newberry after transferring from Virginia Tech. Sheehy, a UNC-Greensboro transfer also in his first Newberry season, finished with a 36-12 record.


Broome, Hutcheson shining at Ole Miss

North Gwinnett’s Brittany Broome and Grayson’s Amanda Hutcheson are both key contributors for Ole Miss, which is 13-9 entering this weekend’s play. The Rebels’ 6 p.m. matchup today with Alabama will be shown on ESPNU.

Broome, a junior, has started every game and has a .321 batting average with 10 stolen bases and 18 runs scored. Hutcheson, a senior, has made 18 appearances (12 starts) and has a .281 batting average.


Berkmar grads get All-American recognition

Two Berkmar grads from the Class of 2008, Hasheem Halim and Girma Mecheso, earned Division I All-American honors at last weekend’s NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Nampa, Idaho.

Halim, a senior at Virginia Tech, was third nationally in the triple jump with a leap of 53 feet, 6 1/2 inches. He broke his own school record at the meet along with earning his third All-American nod (two in indoors, one in outdoors).

Mecheso, a senior at Oklahoma State, was 10th nationally in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 13 minutes, 50 seconds. It was his fifth All-American award (one in indoors, one in outdoors, three in cross country).

Lenahan, Shape off to great start

Mississippi State sophomores and Gwinnett grads Sam Lenahan and Heidi Shape have both played vital roles in the Bulldogs’ 17-9 start.

Lenahan, a Collins Hill grad, has a .367 batting average with two home runs and 16 RBIs. Shape, a Norcross grad, has a .306 batting average with a homer and 17 RBIs.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com.