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Cream rises to the top

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter
March 31, 2014
And then there were four.

We're down to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament, as the national semifinals will be played Saturday night with Florida-UConn and Wisconsin-Kentucky taking center stage for a shot at the championship on the line. That game will be played on Monday night for all the marbles.

Here locally, the inaugural Jeff's Bracket Challenge is also down to the wire. The leaderboard has switched forms quite often since the opening rounds of the tournament, with several different people occupying the top spot. But surprisingly, I find myself leading the pack of high school athletes entering the final weekend of the tourney. My entry into the bracket challenge is in first place over my younger, more enthusiastic counterparts, as I enter the Final Four with 73 points total. I picked two of the Final Four teams, and I still have a shot at the championship game as I have Florida beating Wisconsin in the title tilt. I had Michigan also in my Final Four and that was a harsh blow when the Wolverines were edged by Kentucky on a last second three-pointer, and my last pick of Iowa State took a death blow when top player Georges Niang (a Tilton School product!) was injured and ruled out for the team's Sweet 16 loss to UConn.

Enough about my awesome bracket though, how are the rest of the high school kids doing against a superior figure? Well, Inter-Lakes sophomore Julia Eifert is right on my heels with 72 points in second place, though she took a big blow when her national championship pick of Arizona fell to Wisconsin in overtime of the Elite 8.

Moultonborough's Kelsey Coppinger enters this weekend in third place with 69 points, as she had both Florida and Wisconsin in her Final Four. But Coppinger is all done with points, as she had neither team advancing to the championship game.

Inter-Lakes junior Dillon Dow sits in fourth place with 67 points, and the sharpshooter gets major props from me for being one of the only people I've seen take Kentucky as a Final Four pick. Dow has the Wildcats advancing to the title game, though his national championship pick of Kansas may prove to keep him out of the top spot in our final standings.

Belmont's Matt Leclair and Gilford's Cassidy Bartlett are in a tie for fifth place with 66 points, and both are still alive with championship picks of Florida. The duo had the Gators as their lone successful Final Four pick however, keeping them a bit down in the standings.

Winnisquam's Kaylee Howard stands alone in seventh place entering this weekend with 57 points, and she still has a chance to move into the top five with Florida as her national champ.

Gilford's Coby Goodwin (55 points) and Moultonborough's Aaron Davis (47 points) round out the group. Goodwin had Florida in his Final Four but doesn't have them going any further, while Davis can still move up a bit as he has the Gators in his title game. That still doesn't make up for his champion pick Duke losing in its first game however, a tough blow to anyone's bracket.

With the championship game taking place on Monday night, I'm not sure if I will be able to get the final standings in next week's newspapers since our deadline is earlier in the day on Mondays. If there are still points to be had after the semifinal games, the final totals will likely be in the following week's papers.

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