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          Front Page




T-Birds' Repeat Bid Doused by Colorado 14ers Roll Over Defending Champs

From Journal Reports
    BROOMFIELD, Colo.— Second verse, well not quite the same as the first.
    After coming back from a 24-point halftime deficit to earn a postseason spot last week, the Albuquerque Thunderbirds could not repeat that performance Wednesday in losing 130-100 to Colorado.
    Albuquerque was eliminated from the NBA Development League playoffs, ending the T-Birds' hopes of successfully defending their league title. It also ends Michael Cooper's coaching career with the Thunderbirds, as he will be returning to Los Angeles to coach the Sparks of the WNBA.
    The Thunderbirds trailed 67-46 at halftime of this one, and the second half saw the gap grow even larger.
    Colorado will face Idaho in the Western Division finals.
    "You can't continually spot a team 20 to 25 points and expect to come back on them," Cooper said by phone after the game. "It's not going to happen."
    In a game the coach had said he would like to see decided by defense, the Thunderbirds allowed a season-high in points.
    The 14ers shot 52.7 percent from the field compared with 42.4 percent for Albuquerque, which had 17 turnovers compared with nine for Colorado. And while the Thunderbirds had a decided size advantage, the 14ers dominated the rebounding 49-40.
    "I told them before the game, 'No rebounds, no ring,' '' Cooper said.
    Albuquerque was down 66-42 against the 14ers last Friday in the regular-season finale before responding for a 79-point second half and a 121-112 victory.
    The 14ers made sure there would be no recurrence Wednesday by keeping up the pressure in the third quarter. They increased the advantage after the break, taking a 103-73 lead into the final quarter.
    Albuquerque played tough early in the first quarter, taking an 18-15 lead, but was outscored 16-8 over the rest of the quarter.
    By early in the second, the lead had grown to 57-36 and the Thunderbirds had trouble getting the deficit to less than 20 the rest of the way.
    In an overall lackluster performance, Dijon Thompson led the Thunderbirds with 24 points, and Julius Hodge had 11 points and 12 assists.
    NOTES: Former University of New Mexico Lobo Chad Bell, who was playing just his second game with Colorado, picked up four fouls in five minutes of play in the first half. He finished with two points. ... Former Thunderbird Mo Charlo finished with 16 points and nine rebounds off the Colorado bench.