VALPO HANGS ON FOR HORIZON TOURNEY WIN: Karch Kowalczyk picked up his 10th save of the season with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, helping defending champion Valparaiso hold on for an 8-7 win over Illinois-Chicago on Thursday in the opening round of the Horizon League Tournament.
The Crusaders (29-26) scored four runs in the sixth to take an 8-2 lead. The Flames (26-27) scored five in the seventh, and Valpo escaped with the victory.
Chris Manning was 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored; Bryce Hara was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored, and Elliott Martin was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored.
Valpo will face the winner of today's Wright State-Milwaukee game at 10 a.m. Saturday.
MERRILLVILLE'S LARSON PART OF VALPARAISO RECRUITING CLASS: Carly Larson (Merrillville) will join older sister Jill on Valparaiso's women's bowling roster next season.
Carly Larson won the IHSB state singles championship. She was a First Team All-State honoree as a junior and earned Second Team All-State accolades as a senior before winning the state title. Jill will be a senior next season.
The remainder of the recruiting class includes Savannah Carr (Buckeye, Ariz.), Brittney Groulx (Davison, Mich.), Marianna Guerrieri (Aurora, Ill.), Alyssa Meade (Chesterfield, Mich.) and Lauren Wolski (Darien, Ill.).
RACING FOR BABIES FUNDRAISER SATURDAY AT ILLIANA: A Racing For Babies fundraiser will take place Saturday at Illiana Motor Speedway.
The fundraiser helps premature children and their families. Gates will open at 4 p.m.; time trials will start at 5:30, and the first race will begin at 7.
Tickets are $12 for adults, $5 for children aged 8 to 12. For details, call (219) 322-5311, or go to www.ncsplantfoundation.org or www.illianaspeedway.com.
HAMLIN TAKES COCA-COLA 600 POLE WITH RECORD LAP: Denny Hamlin broke the track record Thursday with a lap of 195.624 mph to capture the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Hamlin, who has never won a Sprint Cup race at CMS, was one of eight drivers to top the previous record of 193.708 set last October by Greg Biffle.
It is Hamlin's 14th career pole.
Four Toyotas will start in the top five. Hamlin will start alongside Kurt Busch on the front row, followed by Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer.
Kasey Kahne will start sixth, Biffle seventh, Kyle Busch eighth, Jamie McMurray ninth and Ryan Newman rounds out the top 10.
Sprint All-Star race champion Jimmie Johnson starts 12th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 11th and Danica Patrick starts 24th.
JAMES, BRYANT VOTED TO ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM: LeBron James was a unanimous pick for the All-NBA team and Kobe Bryant earned his record-tying 11th first-team selection.
James received all 119 votes for the first team from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the U.S. and Canada. Joining the league's MVP and Bryant on the first team Thursday were Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, San Antonio center Tim Duncan and Clippers guard Chris Paul.
Bryant tied Utah Hall of Famer Karl Malone with his 11th first-team nod.
NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony led the second team, joined by guards Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker, center Marc Gasol and forward Blake Griffin.
The third team was Houston's James Harden, Miami's Dwyane Wade, Lakers center Dwight Howard and forwards Paul George of the Pacers and David Lee of Golden State.
KREIDER KEEPS RANGERS ALIVE WITH OT GOAL: Chris Kreider steered in a pass from Rick Nash 7:03 into overtime, and the New York Rangers stayed alive in the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 4-3 victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
New York, which erased 2-0 and 3-2 deficits in the critical Game 4 matchup in the Eastern Conference semifinals, still trails the series 3-1.
The Rangers will need to win again on Saturday in Boston to force a Game 6 back in Madison Square Garden.
Around the horn
Purdue Calumet team physician Dr. Lorin Brown discusses overuse injuries on "Purdue Calumet Sports Insight" at 5:15 p.m. today on WJOB-AM (1230). ... Colonial member Ryan Palmer shot an 8-under 62 on Thursday to match the first-round record at Hogan's Alley and take a one-stroke lead over John Rollins. ... Jay Haas and Duffy Waldorf shared the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship, shooting 5-under 66 at Bellerive Country Club.