After seeing plenty of videos on “Year in Review” pieces, I decided to put together my own list of my favorite area sports memories from 2012.
Originally, I was going to keep my list to just five teams/people, but that was pretty tough to do. Instead, I opted to keep the list at 10. Had Jeff Sherman won his 500th game before the New Year, that moment very well could have been at the top of this list. I’ll save that for next year.
Agree with me? Disagree with me? Go ahead and comment on this post if you think my list should be in a different order.
Ready? Get set. Here we go.
10. Central Methodist baseball: I’m probably a little biased on this one because I played freshman baseball for Fred Smith at Boonville High School, but this team was one win away from reaching the NAIA World Series. Smith has turned around an Eagles program that was in trouble six years ago and now they’re contending for the HAAC title when nobody gave them a chance. I’ll be the first to give them a chance this season. If you get a chance this spring, head to the newly-renovated Estes Field and check out this team. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.
9. Harrisburg softball: This team didn’t have quite the season they were hoping for, but it still resulted in a third-straight district title. All-State third baseman Kassi Blakemore led this team up against eventual state champion Silex and throughout the season, head coach Janeil Draffen had her choice between two All-Staters on the mound: Kimmie Roberts or Bobbi Mathews. It was pretty cool to see this team have a similar following to that of the girls basketball team during its playoff run. A fourth-straight district title will be a tough achievement next year, but as I’ve seen with this team the past two seasons, you can’t count them out of anything come October.
8. New Franklin baseball: Growing up as a baseball player, I remember playing with New Franklin kids during summer baseball, and even though their town was much smaller, the kids were just as good as us. After a slight fall-out for four or five seasons, New Franklin returned to glory this past spring by winning its first district championship since 2006. The team had one of the best pitching rotations in the area (Tyler Hull, Tyler White, Tanner White) and was strong at just about every position. With the White brothers back, I think we’re going to see an even better season this time around, maybe even Final Four potential.
7. New Franklin girls 4×100-meter relay: Every meet I covered that included New Franklin, I always made sure I got to watch the girls 4×100-meter relay. There were high expectations for the girls — Taylor Warren, Jasmyne Boggs, Saundra Perkins and Sara Montgomery — heading into the season, but for the first month, most of their times were in the high-50s. Would they get into postseason form in time for districts? Did they have what it took to go back to state? Well, they answered that question at districts, running a 52.7. They won again at sectionals in 53.2 seconds. Then, at state, the Lady Bulldogs avenged a third-place finish in 2011, when Montgomery crossed the finish line ahead of everyone in a time of 51.75 seconds. For the second straight season, New Franklin’s track program boasted a state champion.
6. Central Methodist softball: This team probably deserved its own beat writer from our newspaper last spring, but unfortunately, that position isn’t in the budget. And because of that, I didn’t get to see this team nearly as often as I wanted to. But one day, as I was working on a feature story before the Lady Eagles headed to the NAIA World Series, I got a chance to watch them practice. This team truly looked like a family on the field. They were fundamentally sound. They made plays when they needed them and came up with hits in the clutch. And most importantly, they had fun every minute they were on the field. Pat Reardon has finally built CMU into a softball powerhouse and this team isn’t going anywhere, based on some of the recruits I’ve seen coming through. And the scary thing about this team is they have a junior pitcher in Aubrey Utley that might be the best hurler in the NAIA.
5. Bruce Marshall: The other nine on this list are all teams. Bruce Marshall deserved a spot just on his own. I was pretty skeptical of Marshall at first, coming into his senior season averaging 11 points per game as a junior and already signed a Division I scholarship at Missouri State. I thought he still had plenty to prove entering his senior season. And then he shut me up. In the fourth game of the season, he outscored Slater by himself with 45 points. Three games later, he scored 45 points against Hallsville in a loss. And finally, against Paris, he broke Matt Sherman’s school record by scoring 50 points against the Coyotes, making 21-of-26 shots and seven 3-pointers. The 6-foot-10 guard/forward/center averaged 28.9 points and 12.0 rebounds per game, and if that wasn’t enough, he had 6.8 blocks per game and finished the season with two triple-doubles. I never had the privilege of watching Jessra Johnson on a regular basis, but if it was anything like watching Marshall on the court, I know exactly what I missed out on.
4. Glasgow boys basketball: I know exactly what you’re thinking. How can a third-place basketball team be this low on my list? Trust me, it wasn’t easy to put the Yellowjackets this low. No matter what teams are on the court, I usually enjoy watching high school basketball. But this team was probably the most fun for me to watch last year, mainly because I didn’t know what to expect. Sometimes Glasgow might go on a scoring spree and score in the 70s. Other times, they were locked in a defensive standstill that was in the low 30s. The quarterfinal game against Marion County was one of my favorite games to cover last season, and after years of frustration, of losing in the district championship game for back-to-back years, Glasgow returned to the Final Four and finished in third place in Class 1, beating St. Joseph Christian (you can watch the game on YouTube below). Dillon Yung was the leader of this team and earned All-State honors, both from the coaches and the media.
3. Central Methodist women’s basketball: When a new coach inherits a team that went 5-25 the previous season, all you want to do is at least improve on that record. Having a winning season should be out of the question. James Arnold wouldn’t have any of that. He used players already in the program, brought in a few transfers and had one of the greatest turnaround seasons in NAIA history, winning 17 games last season and finished in third place in the HAAC, which earned them a home contest in the conference tournament quarterfinals. And if last season wasn’t enough, Arnold has raised the bar again this season. The Lady Eagles beat NCAA Division II Missouri Science & Technology in the preseason, then beat NCAA Division I Chicago State in the regular season. To top things off, CMU went on the road and upset MidAmerica Nazarene for the second year in a row. The Lady Eagles enter 2013 ranked No. 25 in the NAIA and are primed for a run to take the conference crown. Is an NAIA Tournament berth in March in this team’s future?
2. Glasgow girls basketball: I have this team at No. 2 on my list because they present a story that was one of my favorite feature stories I’ve ever written. About 10-12 years ago, this team was a powerhouse in Class 1, much like how the boys team is now. After a lull that lasts nearly 10 years, here comes Molly Monnig, a hometown star to take over the reins of the team. In her first season, the Lady Jackets were a basket away from winning their first district title since Monnig’s senior season. So heading into the 2011-12 campaign, I saw this team with an underdog label, even though they were rarely ever underdogs. They won the Marceline Tournament, but coaches didn’t reward them in the rankings. It took an upset win at home over Salisbury to launch the Lady Jackets into the top 10, and then a few weeks later, they went on the road to beat Meadville, a ranked opponent. This team breezed through districts and their accomplishment was undervalued because they had no competition in districts, but they had won their first district title in 10 years. Their season ended at 23-5 with a sectional loss to Chamois, and 99 times out of 100, most players would mope around for a day or two before moving on past the season. This group was over it 10 minutes after the game ended, already asking when they could go back to the gym and get ready for next season. They are — and probably always will be — the most motivated team I have ever seen, and that’s why they deserved to be here at No. 2.
1. Harrisburg girls basketball: If it were up to Dan Bachmeier, I’d never be allowed to leave Fayette. Every year I’ve been here, his team has won a district title, and now has won two state titles in three years. I’m not dumb enough to try and compare the two state championship teams, because I really don’t think it’s fair to. Sure, this team didn’t have an undefeated season, but that’s irrelevant. Bachmeier had a team that had the perfect pieces to fit into place to win a state title. He had a great post player in Haley Heuer, a top-notch 3-point shooter in Paige Heibel and a good ball-handler with Tina Chickering. But the best player in Class 2 was the piece that brought everything together with Chelsey Kroese. For as long as I cover high school sports, I’ll probably never cover a three-time All-State basketball player again. This team had the perfect balance, and when Kroese didn’t catch fire in a game, someone else was ready to. And when this team got into the postseason, it blew all of its opponents out of the water, winning every game by double digits. And then, when it was all over, I got to ask Bachmeier what it felt like to have two state titles during the postgame interview after the championship game. He didn’t hold back, saying now he can “keep talking and talking” because he has just as many rings as Steve Combs, who was once named “Head Coach of the Decade” and claims to be the best basketball player in Harrisburg history. And Bachmeier will keep talking and talking, because he really likes to talk. “I like to do that anyways,” he said.
(Fast forward to the 3:17:00 mark for the start of the game introductions)