Jessica Remo/NJ Advance Media via AP

Archdiocese lets girls back on boys’ CYO hoop team after threats

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CLARK, N.J. (AP) — Two girls have been cleared to rejoin a boys’ Catholic youth basketball squad in New Jersey after church officials reversed an earlier decision that the fifth-grade team could not be coed.

Archdiocese of Newark Cardinal Joseph Tobin announced the change Wednesday.

The boys on the St. John’s team in Clark had decided to give up their season rather than play a game without their female teammates. The rest of their season was then forfeited.

The archdiocese had said that Catholic Youth Organization rules state that teams should be boys or girls only. However, NJ.com found that the league rules do not mention whether the teams in St. John’s division — the JV black league — can or cannot be coed.

Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness said Tobin believes that the team shouldn’t have been penalized for mistakes that adults responsible for following league rules might have made.

According to Goodness, Tobin asked CYO officials to “study the current league rules regarding participation and team makeup in all age groups” and reinstated the team’s 7-3 record.

Rob Martel, coach and father of one of the girls, fought back tears when he told the team that its season was going to continue and they would be going to the playoffs.

“This is all we ever wanted,” assistant coach Keisha Martel said. “This was never about being defiant or wanting to break, bend or change rules. It was about fairness for these 10 year olds, about finishing the season the way they started — together.”

Tobin said he wanted the children to play for the reasons CYO sports were established. “To provide a source of both recreation and reaffirmation of our Christian faith,” Tobin said.

Golden State Warriors heavy favorites on 2019 NBA title odds

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Oddsmakers are tabbing the Golden State Warriors as the favorite to win their third NBA championship in a row, while the rest of the field is pegged to where LeBron James decides to play next season.

The Warriors are +125 favorites on the 2019 NBA championship odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Golden State’s latest title was capped off by sweeping the James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, but getting to that stage was by no means a sure thing as it had to defeat the Houston Rockets in Game 7 on the road in the Western Conference Finals.

Nevertheless, with the star quartet of guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and forwards Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson locked into place, the Warriors look as unsurpassable as ever. Despite Curry and Durant missing chunks of last season with injuries, the Warriors have still averaged 66 regular-season wins over the last four years.

James is expected to leave the Cavaliers by opting out of his contract, which for futures betting purposes at this point means that one team is significantly undervalued. One other scenario that is floating around involves James foregoing free agency and setting up a trade to the Houston Rockets (+500), where he could team up with guards Chris Paul and James Harden to join the team that had the NBA’s best regular-season record.

However, the Los Angeles Lakers (+700) are considered the front-runner to sign James as a free agent. Going to California offers him a chance to consolidate basketball and business interests, while the Lakers also have the salary-cap flexibility to add other stars and give James a strong enough supporting cast to challenge Golden State.

The Philadelphia 76ers (+500), with their young nucleus that includes center Joel Embiid and forward Ben Simmons, are also expected to make a pitch to James. As an Eastern Conference team, the 76ers also offer the benefit of not having to see the Warriors before the NBA Finals. There has been scant report of James having interest in the Boston Celtics (+600), whose betting value likely rests in Eastern Conference champion betting futures.

As the NBA Finals, and even the previous playoff rounds revealed, the Cavaliers (+2500) don’t have the pieces to win another championship, so it’s probably best to fade them. Other longer shots on the odds to win the NBA championship in the season ahead include the San Antonio Spurs (+2500), Miami Heat (+4000) and Toronto Raptors (+6600).

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Warriors double-digit betting favorites for Game 1 of NBA Finals

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The Golden State Warriors, led by Stephen Curry, have one of the largest lines they have seen in their long-running rivalry with the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James.

The Warriors are 12.5-point NBA betting favorites against the Cavaliers with 214.5-point total for the opener of the NBA Finals on Thursday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Since James rejoined Cleveland in 2014 the largest closing line that the Warriors have faced against Cleveland was 13.5 during a January 2015 game, according to the OddsShark NBA Database. In that time, the Warriors are 11-3 straight-up and 9-4-1 against the spread in home games against the Cavaliers, and nine of those 14 matchups have seen the total finish under, with two pushes.

Thanks to a signature dominant postseason performance from James, the Cavaliers are back in the NBA Finals, although they are just 4-7 SU and 4-6-1 ATS in their 11 most recent road games during the playoffs (including a portion of the 2017 NBA Finals against the Warriors)

For this Game 1, and possibly longer, James will not see his regular defensive shadow on the Warriors, Andre Iguodala. Kevin Love (concussion), the only other Cleveland player averaging more than 10 points per game in the playoffs, is questionable for Thursday night.

It’s always hard to pick against King James, but it is worth noting the Cavaliers are 8-22 SU and 9-20-1 ATS in their last 30 road games against Western Conference teams.

The Warriors, for all the scoring punch and defensive prowess of the big four of Curry, guard Klay Thompson and forwards Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, can get in their own way with turnovers, averaging 13.7 during their three losses against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals..

That issue is probably why Golden State is 1-6 ATS in its last seven games against Eastern teams, but the law of averages would suggest a team as good as Golden State is more apt to reverse such an outlying trend.

Cleveland got away with giving up an abundance of clean looks on three-point shots during its last series against the Boston Celtics and, of course, the Warriors shoot from deep early and often. That will probably be the determinant in whether the Warriors, who are 17-1 SU and 6-12 ATS in their last 18 home games during the playoffs as a favorite of 10 or more points, can cover the huge spread.

The total has gone under in the Cavaliers’ last four road games. The total has gone under in 11 of the Warriors’ last 18 home games during the playoffs as a favorite of at least 10.5 points. The total has gone under in eight of the Warriors’ last 10 games against Eastern Conference teams.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.