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Thornton dominates Arizona Speedway’s John Morris Classic

first_imgAPACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. (May 23-24) – After extending his win streak at Arizona Speedway to five, Ricky Thornton Jr. made a beeline to the bank to deposit a pair of $1,000 checks.Thornton rocketed from mid-pack to win both nights of the third annual John Morris Classic special for IMCA Xtreme Motor Sports Modifieds at Apache Junction.The victories were the 15th and 16th in just 25 starts this season for the national championship hopeful. Current national and Larry Shaw Racing Western Region point leader Brian Schultz also started deep in the field and ran second each night.Thornton started 15th on opening night, passed Don Earven with three laps left and pulled away to win by four car lengths following a restart with two to go.Eric Center, two days shy of celebrating his 52nd birthday, was third. John Morris Jr. was fourth in the memorial event held for his father and Chaz Baca Jr. was fifth.Picking the middle line paid off on night two for Thornton, who took the initial green from 12th and was in the runner-up position when the second lap was scored.He caught Don Hagan for the lead following a lap seven restart and led to the end of the 20-lap­per, beating Schultz across the stripe by a comfortable margin.Baca, Morris and Hagan completed the top five.Thornton was already qualified for the Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational ballot. Thirty-plus Modifieds saw action each night.Feature ResultsMay 23 – 1. Ricky Thornton Jr.; 2. Brian Schultz; 3. Eric Center; 4. John Morris Jr.; 5. Chaz Baca Jr.; 6. Lance Mari; 7. Jason Noll; 8. Guy Norton; 9. Mike Strobl; 10. James Webster; 11. John Par­meley; 12. Shelby Frye; 13. George Fronsman; 14. Nate Warren; 15. Duane Rogers; 16. Don Earven; 17. Ty Rogers; 18. Dallas Caldwell; 19. Mike Martin; 20. Steve Stultz; 21. Dan Radcliffe Jr.; 22. Lance Salo; 23. Dale Liversedge; 24. Mark Stewart.May 24 – 1. Thornton; 2. Schultz; 3. Baca; 4. Morris; 5. Don Hagan; 6. Strobl; 7. Martin; 8. Mari; 9. Webster; 10. Center; 11. Norton; 12. Ty Rogers; 13. Jeff Collinsworth; 14. Parmeley; 15. War­ren; 16. Clifton Maggard; 17. Jim Collinsworth; 18. Jinger Kesler; 19. Brian Tormey; 20. Duane Rogers; 21. Caldwell; 22. Liversedge; 23. Tyler Mecl; 24. Gene Freeman.last_img read more

John Gillon’s program-record free-throw streak endures, one shot at a time

first_imgLOUISVILLE, Ky. — Never in his life had John Gillon struggled more from the free-throw line than the moment he arrived at the Carrier Dome.The 15 feet between the free-throw line and the backboard can seem a lot farther in the cavernous spaces of a 49,250-person venue whose ceiling is 165 feet above the court. When Syracuse began play on Jan. 28 against Florida State, the 6-foot point guard had made 74.5 percent of his free throws in 21 games. That’s a respectable rate for most players, yet missing one-in-four foul shots boggled Gillon.He needed an opportunity to reintroduce himself as the player who put up historical free-throw numbers at Colorado State. Against FSU, he delivered. Gillon made his first five free throws before missing, then proceeded to make his last eight to seal SU’s first upset win of the season. He hasn’t missed since.“Ever since then,” Gillon said, “the comfort I felt from those free throws just stuck with me.”There haven’t been many constants in the Orange’s season. Aside from unpredictable wins and losses, player performance has fluctuated throughout the year. Even Andrew White’s shot, seemingly the most reliable of any on Syracuse, has almost disappeared over the last couple of games. It’s now Gillon who wields the most consistent shot for SU, strictly from the free-throw line. He’s made a program-record 47 consecutive free throws since he last missed against FSU.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textGillon’s streak is the fourth longest in Atlantic Coast Conference history, and he’s made an ACC-best 93 percent of his free throws since conference play began. Each shot counts for only one point, but over the nine games that span Gillon’s streak, only one of Syracuse’s (17-13, 9-8 Atlantic Coast) five wins would still stand after erasing Gillon’s free throws. His run of perfection is equal parts bizarre and impressive, but Gillon isn’t thinking about that. He’s not thinking about anything.“He’s confident, man,” SU assistant coach Adrian Autry said. “When he steps up there he knows he’s making them. He has the same technique and he shoots them and he makes them. It’s not even a thought for him.”Success at the foul line is nothing new for the Colorado State transfer. In two seasons with the Rams, Gillon made a team-leading 84 percent of his free throws. During the 2015-16 season Gillon, he finished with an 87.9 free-throw percentage, 10th-best in program history. Only seven other Colorado State players had ever made more than the 152 free throws that Gillon made in 2015-16. He even won a game with a last-second free throw against UNLV.Gillon thinks he pulled off a similar free-throw streak with the Rams, but isn’t sure how long it lasted. In terms of his current streak, at least one of his teammates wasn’t even aware of what’s been unfolding. Freshman guard Tyus Battle was taken aback, widening his eyes when told about Gillon’s 47 consecutive free throws. As a fellow first-year SU player, one who hasn’t had a perfect free-throw game in a month, Battle was mightily impressed that Gillon could pull off his feat while shooting in the Carrier Dome.“That is crazy,” Battle said. “Forty-seven straight, man. We know John can knock down his free throws. He likes to get to the basket, so he’s going to get fouled and he’s going to go to the line.“… (But) I didn’t know that was a number. That’s great.”Players say there’s an adjustment period when shooting free throws in the Carrier Dome. The depth perception is different from almost any other basketball venue, especially when the stands behind the basket are relatively empty. Battle said he finds it easier to shoot against the backdrop of packed bleachers than empty ones.Autry doesn’t buy into any perception theories. He just wants players to look at the rim. Forward Taurean Thompson doesn’t know what to think. He “never missed” his foul shots in high school, but has made only 65.2 percent of them in his freshman season. Gillon will hear about the theories, but none of them concern him anymore. He knows he’s going to make it every time.“He doesn’t think about how many he’s made in a row,” Autry said. “It’s just an opportunity for him to go up there and make two free throws. That’s how he looks at it. I’m sure of that.” Comments Published on March 1, 2017 at 12:47 am Contact Connor: cgrossma@syr.edu | @connorgrossman Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more