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Sports editor, John Stevens

The distance between a player standing at the free-throw line and the basketball hoop is 15 feet. In theory, it’s a fairly easy shot. It’s just you, the ball and the hoop. There isn’t a clock counting down on you, nor is there a defender in your face guarding you. It’s just you and the basket. 

So what makes free-throws so tough in crunch time? Well, it’s pretty simple. A combination of fatigue and pressure. 

In the past week I’ve witnessed and heard about some of the highs and lows of free-throw shooting in the high school basketball playoffs. 

For instance, on Tuesday the Marysville boys faced a cold-blooded West Campus team that hit 22-of-26 from the line. Meanwhile, the Sutter boys fell in a tough battle on Friday night to Oroville. The Huskies finished the game going 12-of-27 from the charity stripe, which is very uncharacteristic of a team that was known for finishing out games with clutch free-throws. 

Another example is the Gridley girls. Up 34-25 heading into the final period of Friday’s playoff game against Corning, the Bulldogs sealed the deal with some clutch free-throws late to outscore the Cardinals 19-7 in the fourth quarter. 

No matter where you look, free-throws follow the route to a championship. They can decide the fate of a season, which is why they should be the first and last thing coaches work on in practice everyday. 

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Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, the New England Patriots, the United State military and the Houston Astros. They all have one thing in common: Cheating. 

Sure, some of you may be thinking, when did the U.S. military ever cheat? Well, they stole signs to win World War II just like the Astros did in the 2017 World Series. 

Okay, I admit it. That’s a bit of a stretch.

But what I do want to recognize is the forgiveness a lot of these cheaters have received. Barry Bonds collectibles still go for a lot of money, Livestrong bracelets can still be seen on wrists and the New England Patriots are still operating as if nothing ever happened. 

So why does it feel like the Astros scandal will never go away? Was it their lack of apology or maybe the fact that people just don’t think the punishment was good enough? 

Well I’m here to tell you, the players are definitely embarrassed and as a fan of Houston, I still don’t feel like we have won a World Series title. 

You can sit down and debate all day about whether the signs really affected the outcome of the World Series (Houston won two games in Los Angeles, plus Dodgers hitting struggled) but at the end of the day when a cheater wins, it forever taints the result. 

The Astros were a team that I always felt sorry for growing up. The tickets were cheap, the baseball was awful and the indoor air conditioning felt nice. So once they started to rebuild and turn things around, I had so much passion for a team I felt so proud of. 

But now I don’t even feel comfortable wearing their apparel in public. 

Yes, it’s awful they cheated and yes they owe a better apology to other teams and players. But how about we all move on and play baseball. 

My city’s franchise may not deserve your forgiveness, but baseball does. 

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The week ahead in sports will give us a great look at some exciting and much anticipated prep basketball playoff match-ups. 

On the girls side, the road-tested No. 9 Wheatland Pirates will travel to take on No. 5 University Prep, while No. 3 Gridley will also make the trip north to face No. 2 West Valley. Both games are set for Tuesday at 7 p.m.

As for the boys, No. 1 East Nicolaus will host No. 4 Durham and No. 3 Gridley will travel to play No. 2 Pierce. Both games will take place on Wednesday at 7 p.m. 

 Meanwhile, a few Yuba-Sutter soccer programs are making a deep run in the postseason as well. 

The No. 1 Lindhurst boys will face No. 4 El Dorado. And the No. 4 Live Oak girls will travel to play No. 1 University Prep. Both matches will be on Tuesday.

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