Three Mainers advance to national Hoop Shoot

GORHAM — Three Maine youngsters won Elks New England Regional “Hoop Shoot” championships at Gorham Middle School Saturday morning.

Henry Westphal, sponsored by the Portland Elks Lodge, won the boys age 10-1 division in the foul-shooting competition; Isabel Dawson, also sponsored by Portland, captured the girls’ 10-11 division; and Jaycie Christopher, sponsored by the Skowhegan-Madison Lodge, captured the girls age 8-9 division.

Other Maine competitors were Sydney LeBlanc, sponsored by Skowhegan-Madison, who finished third in the girls 12-13 division; Colby Esty, also sponsored by Skowhegan-Madison, who finished third in the 12-13 boys’ class; and Connor Marquis, sponsored by Sebasticook Valley Lodge of Pittsfield, who finished fifth in the age 8-9 boys division.

The Maine winners join their counterparts from the other New England states in the national finals on Saturday, April 20 at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Minnesota fires coach Tubby Smith

The University of Minnesota fired Tubby Smith on Monday, CBS Sports reported.

Smith compiled a 124-81 record, including 46-62 in the Big Ten, in his six years as the Golden Gophers coach.

Minnesota won a first round game in the NCAA Tournament last week against UCLA, but new athletic director Norwood Teague reportedly is parting ways with the 61-year-old Smith and buying out his contract.

Minnesota gave Smith a three-year contract extension through the 2016-17 season last summer. He is making nearly $2 million per year.

Teague and assistant AD Mike Ellis hired Shaka Smart at Virginia Commonwealth in 2009 and will reportedly try to bring him to Minnesota to replace Smith. Smart has built VCU into a mid-major power and has turned down other offers, opting to remain with the Rams.

Smith took Minnesota to the NCAA Tournament in three of his six seasons.

UCLA fires coach Ben Howland

UCLA announced on Sunday that it has dismissed basketball coach Ben Howland, who took the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours during his 10 years at the school.

The school released a statement, saying athletic director Dan Guerrero informed Howland of the decision on Sunday afternoon.

“I want to thank Ben for all that he has done for UCLA in his ten seasons in Westwood,” Guerrero said in the statement. “He embraced our tradition and culture and produced some terrific teams and coached a number of wonderful young men. We wish Ben and his family all the best as they move onto a new chapter in their lives.”

The Bruins won the regular-season Pac-12 title this season, but lost in the conference tournament finals to Oregon. Jordan Adams, the team’s No. 2 scorer, broke his foot in the semifinal victory and did not play in the loss to Oregon or in the 83-63 loss to 11th-seeded Minneosta in UCLA’s opening game of the NCAA Tournament.

The Bruins finished the season 25-10, and Howland had a 10-year record of 233-107.

He won four conference titles in the past eight years and took the Bruins to the Final Four in three consecutive seasons from 2006-08. UCLA got to the NCAA title game in 2006, losing to Florida in the finals.

But the Bruins have won only two NCAA Tournament games since 2008. They missed the NCAA Tournament in two of the three previous seasons, and had a losing record in 2009-10.

Sochi organizers store snow, just in case

SOCHI, Russia — While Moscow digs itself out of a huge snow storm that hit the Russian capital in the last few days, organisers of the Winter Olympics are worried a lack of white powder could become a problem next February.

Unseasonably warm temperatures this winter in Sochi have forced local organisers to store some 450,000 cubic metres of snow in the nearby Caucasus Mountains that surround this sub-tropical Black Sea resort.

“We’ve prepared seven separate areas for snow storage high up in the mountains,” Sergei Bachin, general director of Roza Khutor, a ski resort in Krasnaya Polyana that will host Alpine skiing, snowboarding and freestyle Olympic competition, told Reuters.

“I want to assure all the competitors that there won’t be any shortage of snow next February even if we encounter even warmer temperatures next year,” he said.

“We’re storing such huge amounts of snow just in case.”

The snow will be covered with a “special thermo seal”, to protect it from melting during the summer, Bachin said.

Finley stays with Packers

Tight end Jermichael Finley is staying with the Green Bay Packers, and he won’t have to take a pay cut or restructure his contract, according to multiple reports Monday.

The deadline for making a roster decision on Finley was Monday, and 10 minutes after the deadline passed, Finley announced the news on Twtter, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“Ecstatic 2 b back w @packers. Best place on earth,” Finley tweeted. “Thank u 2 my agents & family @blakebaratz @Jhart5266. I appreciate all that u do. #pack.”

The Packers will pay Finley his $3 million roster bonus, which is due on Tuesday. He will also receive his $8.25 million base salary for 2013.

Brewers signing pitcher Kyle Lohse

Free agent right-hander Kyle Lohse is signing with the Milwaukee Brewers, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Monday.

Lohse, 34, was 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 33 starts last year for the St. Louis Cardinals.

He had a difficult time finding a team because of the league’s new draft pick compensation system. The Brewers have to forfeit the 17th overall pick in the June draft to get Lohse.

It has been reported that he was seeking a multi-year contract.

Blue Jays 3B Lawrie to go on DL

The Toronto Blue Jays announced Monday that third baseman Brett Lawrie will start the season on the disabled list because of a rib cage injury.

Lawrie was injured during the World Baseball Classic. He will play in minor league games so the team can backdate his injury.

Lawrie batted .273 with 11 home runs and 48 RBI in 125 games in 2012.

The team also announced that pitcher Dave Bush and catcher Josh Thole were sent to minor league camp. Thole was acquired from the New York Mets as part of a trade that brought National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto. Bush is 56-69 with a 4.70 ERA in eight major-league seasons.