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April 7, 2014

Shawn Jansen: Los Banos’ Crosby wins bracket challenge

Sad only begins to describe Merced College women’s basketball coach Allen Huddleston’s emotions when he sees Los Banos girls basketball coach Danny Crosby’s name on top of the Marci Stenberg Bracket Challenge final standings.

Four weeks ago, Merced College women’s basketball coach Allen Huddleston was driving to Las Vegas. Huddleston was hoping he would get to see his son, Allen, play his final college basketball game for Fresno State in the Mountain West Tournament.

It wasn’t looking good.

“I was driving to Vegas and I think there was about 6 minutes left in the game and they were down 15 or 16 points,” Huddleston said. “It kind of hit me that I was going to miss my son’s last college game.”

Fortunately, the Bulldogs came back to beat Air Force and Huddleston was able to watch his son play against New Mexico the next night.

With Fresno State being invited to play in the College Basketball Invitational tournament, Huddleston was able to catch a few more Bulldogs games. On Saturday, Huddleston watched on TV as Fresno State lost to Siena 81-68 in the third game of the best of three championship series.

“It was a tough game, but as a dad, I’m proud of the energy and effort he left on the court,” Huddleston said. “But it was sad seeing his last college game.”

Sad only begins to describe Huddleston’s emotions when he sees Los Banos girls basketball coach Danny Crosby’s name on top of the Marci Stenberg Bracket Challenge final standings.

Crosby edged out former Sun-Star sport reporter Andrea Abney 78-77. Wisconsin’s 74-73 loss to Kentucky on Saturday night clinched the title for Crosby. A Badgers win would have clinched the title for Buhach Colony’s Shane Gentry, who was the only person to pick Wisconsin to win the title in the pool.

Huddleston knows it’s going to be a long year.

“I think Danny thought he was going to win, but he didn’t know for sure,” Huddleston said. “He was on campus today, but didn’t say a word. He talks too much trash. I’m pretty sure he’s going to tell me all about it next time I see him. He’ll talk trash until this time next year.”

Of our 27 experts in the pool, nobody picked more than two of the Final Four teams and nobody picked Kentucky or Connecticut to make the Final Four.

Can you blame them?

Out of the 11-million plus brackets entered in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge only 2.1 percent had Kentucky in the championship game and 0.5 percent had UConn making it this far.

Crosby, Gentry and former Sun-Star sports editor James Burns were the only people to pick both Florida and Wisconsin to reach the Final Four.

“I’m going to wear my crown proudly,” Crosby said. “I’m going to be a humble champion. It’s fun. I enjoy doing this. The last few years I haven’t won so it feels good to be back on top again.”

This is the third time Crosby has won this pool. He won back-to-back titles when he rode Florida’s back-to-back championships in 2006 and 2007.

Don’t expect Crosby to stay humble long.

“It’s going to be fun to see coach Allen on Wednesday,” Crosby said. “It seems like he’s always finishing in double-digits. He never beats me. Finally, maybe he’ll call me before he fills out his bracket next year.”

Huddleston knows the storm is coming.

“He’ll be blowing my phone up once he finds out he’s won,” he said. “I’ll ignore his calls, but he’s going to be on campus on Wednesday. No matter how much I ignore him he’s going to make sure I hear about it when I have to see him. Maybe I’ll track down Shane Gentry’s number so he can talk trash to somebody else.”

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