Kamilla Cardoso Helps Lead South Carolina Gamecocks to Women’s NCAA Tournament Championship Game

Kamilla Cardoso is one win away from a second national championship trophy…

With the 22-year-old Brazilian college basketball player and All-America center scoring 22 points, the South Carolina Gamecocks emphatically kept their unbeaten season going, advancing to the championship game of the women’s NCAA Tournament with a 78-59 victory over North Carolina State on Friday night.

Kamilla CardosoThe talented and tenacious Gamecocks (37-0) led by just one at halftime before putting their full arsenal on display in the third quarter.

They clamped down on defense, started knocking down 3-pointers and outscored the Wolfpack 29-6 to turn what had been a tense matchup into another one of their blowouts.

“We turned up the heat,” coach Dawn Staley said.

South Carolina will meet Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes for the national title on Sunday in a rematch of a Final Four game last year, when the Hawkeyes ended the Gamecocks’ perfect season.

After rallying past UConn in Friday’s later semifinal, Clark and her teammates will have their hands full. South Carolina appears to be on a mission.

“I could tell by our faces and voices,” said Gamecocks forward Ashlyn Watkins, who had 20 rebounds. “We wanted it more.”

Aziaha James scored 20 points on 6-of-17 shooting for No. 3 seed N.C. State (31-7), which knocked off a No. 1 and a No. 2 seed to get to Cleveland.

But the Wolfpack had no shot against the Gamecocks, who were a unanimous No. 1 most of the season in the AP Top 25 and are aiming to become the first undefeated national champions since UConn in 2016.

They look all but invincible.

“They just punched us in the mouth in the third quarter,” James said. “I felt like the third quarter really hurt us. I feel like we could have fought harder. It was 6-29. We can’t let things like that happen to win a championship.”

Cardoso added 11 rebounds while playing just 23 minutes.

She hurt her right leg late in the first half and returned in the third quarter, wearing a black compression sleeve. Staley had the luxury of resting her star center in the fourth quarter to make sure she’s ready for Sunday.

“She’s not going to like this answer, but she’s a beautiful Brazilian warrior,” Gamecocks guard Te-Hina Paopao said of Cardoso. “She’s just awesome, man. She’s going to play through some pain. She’s going to push through that. Knowing we have one more game, she’s definitely going to be OK.”

Watkins was just as dominant inside for the Gamecocks, getting 15 of her boards on the defensive end and scoring eight points. Raven Johnson added 13 points.

Saniya Rivers, who transferred from South Carolina to N.C. State after winning a title as a freshman, shot just 2 of 11 and had five turnovers as her former teammates made every touch a tough one.

N.C. State coach Wes Moore knew his team would have to play its best to have any chance of bringing down bigger, badder South Carolina.

On Thursday, he likened the semifinal to a David-vs.-Goliath matchup and promised his team would “put the stone in the sling and let it rip.”

The Wolfpack needed more than stones.

“I’ll probably throw up a few times when I watch that third quarter,” said Moore, who regretted not switching to a zone defense earlier. “I don’t feel like a very good coach after that butt-kickin’. But our players, you’ve got to have players.

“I always say you don’t win the Kentucky Derby with a mule. You’ve got to have horses.”

Relishing the underdog role, the Wolfpack, who lost a double-overtime heartbreaker to UConn two years ago in the Elite Eight, were hoping to replicate some of the magic the school conjured in 1983. Back then, N.C. State’s Jim Valvano-coached men’s team shocked the hoops world by beating heavily favored Houston in the NCAA title game — an upset that helped define March Madness.

But unlike a year ago, when South Carolina stormed into the Final Four in Dallas with an identical 36-0 record before losing to Iowa, the Gamecocks kept this season pristine.

The 6-foot-7 Cardoso made sure of it despite not moving as well as usual after the injury. South Carolina, which won by an average of 29.6 points this season, left no doubt after halftime, showing its dominance to a sellout crowd and national TV audience.

“Kamilla is a strength of ours,” Staley said. “She’s 6-7. She’s agile. She can command the paint. She plays with a desire to win. She asked for the ball a couple of times as well, meaning get her the ball.

“It’s that. It’s ‘I don’t want to lose, I don’t want our season to end in any way except the way I envisioned, and that’s winning the national championship.’ And when you can put your play behind your vision, it makes a beautiful memory.”

Paopao and Johnson made 3-pointers as the Gamecocks quickly stretched their lead to 10, and they closed the quarter with a dizzying 17-1 run that quieted a rowdy N.C. State crowd.

While this unprecedented season of women’s basketball has been largely driven by Clark’s assault on the record books with her logo-distance 3-pointers and charisma inspiring fans from coast to coast, one team rose to the top.

It’s been South Carolina all along.

These Gamecocks have ruled the roost with equal amounts of depth, talent and swagger.

Staley wasn’t sure what type of team she had when the season began after having to replace five starters from last year’s squad. She also worried about her young team’s carefree attitude and whether this group would mature.

But not only did the Gamecocks bond and get themselves together, they’re one win from cementing South Carolina as a dynasty.

“One more game left,” Paopao said. “We’re excited for that.”

Miami Marlins Acquire Emmanuel Rivera From Arizona Diamondbacks

Emmanuel Rivera is headed to South Florida…

The Miami Marlins acquired the 27-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball infielder from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday in exchange for cash considerations.

Emmanuel Rivera  The Marlins designated infielder Jacob Amaya for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster.

Rivera was designated for assignment by Arizona before the start of the season.

He batted .261 with four homers and 29 RBIs in 86 games last season with the Diamondbacks.

He is batting .247 with 17 homers and 74 RBIs in 217 career games with Kansas City Royals (2021-22) and Diamondbacks (2022-23).

Amaya, 25, is hitting .182 with two RBIs in three games with Triple-A Jacksonville this season.

Carlos Aviña Reportedly Joining San Diego FC as Sporting Director

Carlos Aviña is thisclose to joining Major League Soccer.

The MLS’ latest expansion team San Diego FC is set to name the Mexican soccer executive, currently serving as AS Monaco’s director of football, as the club’s first sporting director, per ESPN.

Carlos AviñaThe appointment of Aviña is imminent with an announcement expected soon, sources said.

The news of Aviña’s potential appointment was first reported by Fabrizio Romano.

San Diego was awarded an MLS expansion team in May 2023, with the team to begin play as the league’s 30th club in 2025.

San Diego FC CEO Tom Penn hinted at the arrival of key front office staff in February, telling ESPN: “We’ll hire a sporting director first, coach would be after that, I’d say likely sometime in Q2 [of 2024] you would hear more.”

The new face of San Diego will arrive with plenty of experience, working as Club America‘s head of sports intelligence from 2017 to 2019 before being promoted to director of football development and player recruitment. He then joined Club Brugge in 2021, serving as sporting director.

Aviña has been with Monaco for the past 10 months, helping the team to third in the Ligue 1 table with 49 points from 27 games and a 14W-6L-7D.

Now, with San Diego, he’ll be tasked with building the team from scratch.

The team has made just three player signings ahead of their MLS debut, bringing on U.S. youth national team goalkeeper Duran Ferree and international arrivals Jeppe Tverskov and Marcus Ingvartsen.

Despite the club’s location, Penn has said that he’s not solely focused on making the first major signing a high-profile Mexican star.

“We don’t have that specific kind of goal, no,” he told ESPN in October 2023. “We want to find foundational players that are gonna be with us for the formative years of a club. We’re gonna work with the key leaders in football operations that will be identified to make those key decisions.”

Astros’ Ronel Blanco Throws First No-Hitter in Major League Baseball This Season

Ronel Blanco has secured a special first…

The 30-year-old Dominican professional baseball pitcher, who made his first Opening Day roster, has thrown the first no-hitter in Major League Baseball this season.

Ronel Blanco Blanco struck out seven and walked two in the Houston Astros‘ 10-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night. Blanco, who didn’t play in the MLB until he was 28, was making just his eighth career start. He wouldn’t even be in Houston’s rotation if not for injuries to Justin Verlander and Jose Urquidy.

“It’s been a very long road traveled for me,” he said in Spanish through an interpreter. “A lot of ups, a lot of downs, a lot of falls, a lot of me getting back up. But I think all of that has been worth it for me to be able to get to this moment.”

He walked George Springer to start the game and again with two outs in the ninth.

When Vladimir Guerrero Jr. grounded out to end it, Blanco smiled broadly before raising his arms above his head just before being mobbed by teammates.

“I see it as a great blessing, a great blessing for me and my family,” he said. “With the arrival of my daughter I see it as a life-changing experience, and I dedicate this to my family and my daughter.”

It was the 17th no-hitter in Astros history and the first in the majors since Philadelphia’s Michael Lorenzen threw one against the Washington Nationals on Aug. 9 of last year.

Houston’s previous no-hitter came about a week before that one when Framber Valdez did it in a 2-0 win over Cleveland on August 1.

Kyle Tucker and Yainer Diaz each homered twice as the Astros won their first game of the season after losing four to the Yankees. Houston’s Joe Espada became the first manager in major league history to get his first win in a no-hitter.

“I couldn’t be any happier for the way today turned out,” Espada said.

The Astros are the fourth team in MLB history to get their first win of the season in a no-hitter, and the first since Boston’s Hideo Nomo pitched one against the Orioles in 2001. Nomo’s no-hitter that year came on April 4. That was the record for the earliest no-hitter by calendar date, according to Sportradar, but Blanco’s gem broke the mark by three days.

Blanco threw 105 pitches, averaging 93.6 mph with 31 fastballs and also throwing 36 changeups, 34 sliders and four curveballs.

Espada said the changeup was the key to Blanco’s success Monday.

“It makes the fastball and the slider that much better,” he said. “The way it comes out of the hand, it looks just like his fastball and hitters are committed to potentially swinging at a fastball and the ball just kind of falls in the zone. It’s a pitch that he’s worked really hard on and it paid big dividends tonight.”

Toronto manager John Schneider agreed.

“Really good changeup, it was almost like a split, slider combo,” he said. “Give him credit — that’s really hard to do. I know he hasn’t been starting much, but he was really good and his changeup was outstanding.”

South Carolina Gamecocks Star Kamilla Cardoso Declares for 2024 WNBA Draft

Kamilla Cardoso is preparing to level up her game…

The 22-year-old Brazilian college basketball player, a South Carolina Gamecocks star, has declared for the 2024 WNBA draft via Instagram.

Kamilla CardosoCardoso, a potential lottery pick, is currently projected by ESPN‘s Michael Voepel to be selected fourth overall by the Los Angeles Sparks.

“Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my journey so far,” Cardoso wrote in her Instagram post. “I am excited for what the future holds and can’t wait to see where this next chapter takes me.”

Cardoso, a 6-foot-7 center, spent the past three seasons at South Carolina after beginning her collegiate career at Syracuse. She only this year became a full-time starter for the Gamecocks following the graduation of Aliyah Boston, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft.

Cardoso leads undefeated South Carolina (36-0) in scoring (14.1 points per game), rebounding (9.4) and blocks (2.5) while averaging just 25.0 minutes.

She is one of two seniors in South Carolina’s rotation, which features a host of freshmen, sophomores and juniors. Te-Hina Paopao, a senior transfer from Oregon and current starter for the Gamecocks, announced last month that she is returning to Columbia for her final season.

South Carolina, the No. 1 overall seed, faces third-seeded North Carolina State  in the Final Four on Friday.

Jessica Bouzas Maneiro Defeats Irina-Camelia Begu at Antalya Open to Claim Her First WTA 125 Title

Jessica Bouzas Maneiro is celebrating a special first…

The 21-year-old Spanish tennis player, the No 5 seed, beat Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu, the No 4 seed, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 to lift the Antalya Open trophy at the Megasaray Tennis Academy on Sunday afternoon.

Jessica Bouzas ManeiroIt’s the first WTA 125 title of Bouzas Manneiro’s career.

With the title, she rises from a ranking of No 127 to just outside the top 100 at No 104.

Bouzas Maneiro defeated Hungarian Panna Udvardy (2-6, 6-3, 6-3), qualifier Leyre Romero Gormaz (6-1, 7-5), Russian Polina Kudermetova (2-6, 7-5, 6-3) and Swiss Simona Waltert (6-2, 6-3) ahead of her victory in the final.

In the previous rounds of the Antalya tournament, Begu, ranked No 126, defeated Austrian Sinja Kraus (7-6 (10), 6-1), Croat Tara Wurth (7-5, 6-2), Slovenian Polona Hercog (6-4, 6-4) and Japanese Moyuka Uchijima (7-5, 6-2).

Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz Overpowers & Dethrones WBA Super Lightweight Champion Rolando “Rolly” Romero

Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz has claimed his first major title…

The 25-year-old Mexican professional boxer (26-2-1, 18 KOs) overpowered and dethroned WBA super lightweight champion Rolando “Rolly” Romero (15-2, 13 KOs) after getting an eighth round referee’s stoppage on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Isaac "Pitbull" CruzCruz set the tone early, with wild overhand rights that whistled by the head of Romero.

Then Cruz put on a masterclass in stalking and cutting off the ring against Romero.

Finally, Cruz completed his beatdown of Romero with at least six straight shots to the head, forcing referee Tom Taylor to stop the fight at 56 seconds of the eighth round.

With the win, Cruz took Romero’s WBA junior welterweight world title on the co-main event of a card headlined by a junior middleweight title fight between Tim Tszyu and Sebastian Fundora.

“I didn’t want to come here and just win,” said Cruz. “I wanted to massacre Rolly and make him eat all the garbage he said to me. …I fought with the intention to leave the decision out of the judges’ hands.”

Mission accomplished.

The relentless Cruz so dominated the fight that Romero had to be checked by the ringside doctor before heading out for the fateful eighth round. Romero almost went down in the first round after taking a left hook to the forehead, was docked a point for holding in the fifth and was again saved by the ropes in the seventh after taking a big right uppercut to the chin that essentially had him out on his feet.

Cruz has now won four straight fights since losing a unanimous decision to Gervonta Davis on December 5, 2021 in Los Angeles.

“I was prepared for this. I wasn’t here to just fight. I was here to terminate him,” said Cruz. “I did my talking right here in the ring. And I did this not just for me but for everybody that is here at T-Mobile Arena. There’s going to be a Mexican champ at 140 pounds for a long time.”

The taller Romero, who fights out of Las Vegas but felt no home-ring advantage with a raucous pro-Mexico crowd, fell to 15-2 as he has now lost two of this last three fights.

He lost by a sixth-round TKO against Davis on May 28, 2022 in Brooklyn for the WBA’s lightweight title before stopping Ismael Barroso for the WBA’s junior welterweight title on May 13, 2023 in Las Vegas. He never looked comfortable with the way Cruz cut the ring off on him, while absorbing so many power shots.

Julio Cesar Martinez Defeats Angelino Cordova By Majority Decision to Retain WBC Flyweight Belt

Julio Cesar Martinez is retaining his belt…

The 29-year-old Mexican professional boxer, the WBC flyweight champion, twice knocked down challenger Angelino Cordova on Saturday with left hooks in the first minute of the third round.

Julio Cesar MartinezMartinez (21-3-1 NC, 15 KOs), of Mexico City, then had Cordova (18-1-1, 12 KOs), from Caracas, Venezuela, wobbly in the fifth round with another swift left hook before settling in for a majority decision (113-113, 114-112, 114-112) to successfully defend his belt, and give Cordova his first defeat.

But not without enduring a pair of gnarly-looking cuts, one to the side of his right eye in the eighth round and diagonally through his left eyebrow after an incidental headbutt with 23 seconds to go in the 10th round.

Cordova tried to set the tone in the first two rounds before Martinez went on the offensive with his pursuit. With a pro-Mexico crowd chanting the name of his home country, Martinez responded with a straight right to his opponent’s face, stunning Cordova 35 seconds into the seventh round.

The most entertaining round was the eighth, the two 112-pounders going toe-to-toe with haymakers in the middle of the ring. It was also when, with Martinez bleeding heavily from the cut on his right eye, Cordova was clowning and connecting, with a combo of a Sugar Ray Leonard windup punch and an Ali shuffle, despite having already been knocked down numerous times.

Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez Looking to Make History in WBA Cruiserweight Title Fight Against Arsen Goulamirian

Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez is looking to make history…

The 32-year-old Mexican professional boxer, who held the WBO super middleweight title from 2016 to 2019 and is the first boxer from Mexico to win a major world title in that weight class, will attempt to become the heaviest Mexican champion of all time when he challenges Armenia’s Arsen Goulamirian for the WBA cruiserweight title on Saturday in Inglewood, California.

Gilberto "Zurdo" RamirezRamirez (27-0, 19 KOs) is a former 168-pound titleholder who will compete at the 200-pound limit for the first time as he looks to make history as the first Mexican champion above 175 pounds.

Mexico’s Canelo Alvarez, boxing’s top star, won a title at 175 in 2019 when he knocked out Sergey Kovalev.

But there has never been a Mexican-born champion at cruiserweight (200 pounds) or heavyweight (Andy Ruiz defeated Anthony Joshua for the unified heavyweight championship in 2019, but he’s a Mexican American boxer born and raised in Southern California).

“It’s something special because we never have [had] a Mexican [champion] that big,” Ramirez told ESPN. “… [A win] will be big for me, for all the fans in Mexico, for all the people. I think it’s history.”

Ramirez (45-1, 30 KOs) suffered his first career defeat when he challenged light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol in November 2022. Afterward, Ramirez moved up to cruiserweight for a 193-pound catchweight decision win over Joe Smith in October.

The cruiserweight division has mostly been an afterthought in the U.S. since it was introduced in 1979. The legendary Evander Holyfield starred in the division as champion from 1986 to 1988 before he moved to heavyweight. And ever since, the cruiserweights have mostly been dormant stateside while being featured across Europe.

“We’ve never had a big, major rivalry or a big-name fighter at cruiserweight the way we’ve had with middleweights and heavyweights,” Ramirez’s promoter, Hall of Fame boxer Oscar De La Hoya, told ESPN. “So I think that weight class just kind of gets lost in the shuffle a bit. But I think Zurdo has an opportunity here … if he looks great.”

Ramirez, who is 6-foot-2½, said he walks around between 210 and 215 pounds and believes he will have more power in his new weight class. ESPN’s No. 6 cruiserweight, Ramirez is a -215 favorite to defeat Goulamirian, per ESPN BET.

Goulamirian (27-0, 19 KOs) hasn’t competed since November 2022 and is now being trained by Abel Sanchez, who built Gennadiy Golovkin into a star boxer.

Goulamirian has made three title defenses, and all but three of his bouts have taken place in France. “This is my first fight in [the] United States and I am planning to put on a show,” Goulamirian, 36, said through his new adviser, Sam Katkovski.

“Cruiserweight has not been a division [that’s] popular in [the] United States, but I plan on changing that on Saturday.”

Joel Iriarte, a 17-time national amateur champion, will make his professional debut on the DAZN undercard after he signed with De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions earlier this month.

Xabi Alonso Opting to Stay on as Bayer Leverkusen Manager for 2024-25 Season

Xabi Alonso is staying put…

The 42-year-old Spanish professional football manager and former player has confirmed he’ll stay on as manager of Bayer Leverkusen for the 2024-25 season despite strong interest from some of Europe’s biggest teams, including Bayern Munich and Liverpool, as he sees the club as the best place for him to continue his development as a coach.

Xabi AlonsoAlonso, who has led Leverkusen to the verge of their first Bundesliga title, told a news conference on Friday that he used the international break to consider his options and come to his own decision.

“It has been a season with a lot of speculation regarding my future,” Alonso said. “I wanted to use the international break to reflect a little bit better and to take a decision.

“Last week, I had a good meeting with Simon [Rolfes, the club’s sporting director] with Fernando [Carro, CEO], when I informed them of my decision to continue being coach of Bayer Leverkusen.

“For sure all the decisions, you need to analyze well, and I tried to take the right ones, I tried to take the ones that come in a natural way, and at this moment I feel this is the right place for me to be to develop as a coach.

“I am a young coach, but I have to feel it, and right now I feel that this is the right place.”

Sources told ESPN on Thursday that Liverpool had ruled out appointing their former midfielder as Jurgen Klopp‘s successor, while honorary Bayern president Uli Hoeness said Thursday that hiring Alonso this summer is “probably impossible.”

Alonso’s reputation as a coach has grown quickly since his appointment at the BayArena in October 2022 — particularly this season, where his team are yet to lose in a German-record 38 games and look likely to end Bayern’s 11-year hegemony over the Bundesliga title.

“It’s a process, the development of the team is parallel with my development as a manager,” he added. “This is my first complete season as a manager. I still have a lot of things to prove myself, to experience, and right now I have a situation in the club where I feel really stable, really happy with the team and the club.”

The former Spain international is expected to be a target for Real Madrid when Carlo Ancelotti‘s contract expires in 2026.

Meanwhile on Friday, Klopp said he understands Alonso’s decision to stay, saying he made a similar decision earlier in his managerial career.

“One point I can speak about is a young manager being at a club where he’s doing really well, I had a similar situation and did pretty much the same if you want and never regretted it. That’s pretty much everything I can say about it,” Klopp told a news conference.

“Xabi is doing a really good job there. Leverkusen has a good team, probably will keep the team together, I think that’s possible this year as well. Not all years [are] like that. So I understand that he wants to do that. For the other stuff [any disappointment he isn’t coming to Liverpool?] there’s nothing I have to say.”

Leverkusen face Hoffenheim in the league on Saturday as they look to maintain their 10-point lead over Bayern in the standings.

They remain in contention for a treble this season, with a German cup semifinal against Dusseldorf set for April 3 and a two-legged tie against West Ham in the Europa League quarterfinals later that month.

“We are in a situation that we have to enjoy. Still two months to go, it’s going to be really intense, really demanding but enjoyable hopefully.

“And we need to give our best, and for that, it was good that last week was my deadline for sure to take that decision. From now on, all the cards are on the table and we go full gas for the big goals that we have ahead of us.”

Bayern manager Thomas Tuchel, who is leaving the Bavarian giants at the end of the season, was asked before Alonso’s news conference about who he thought could replace him.

“Next question,” he said. “I’ll certainly not be involved in the discussion about my successor.”