By AARON SNYDER
Over the course of 366 days — remember, 2012 was a leap year — a lot is bound to happen.
Athletic feats and accomplishments number, well,
entirely too many to count.
Only a select few, though, are worth reliving.
From the unthinkable to the simply remarkable, the following countdown helps summarize 2012 for what it was — a truly diversified mix of magnificent moments.
Seven different sports are represented among the top 10 stories chosen by The
Independent sports staff.
1. Soccer Shocker
Greenup County’s boys soccer team pulled off an unimaginable feat. The Musketeers rolled off four incredible wins — three of them upsets — to capture the program’s first-ever region title.
It started in the 62nd District tournament with a surprise victory over West Carter. Then, after getting pummeled, 5-1, by East Carter in the district championship, the Musketeers’ magic began to mount.
First, Fleming County. Second, Russell. Finally, Boyd County.
Beating the Panthers marked Greenup County’s first region tournament win in its boys soccer history.
Russell had routed the Musketeers, 11-2, earlier in the season before Greenup County knocked off the Red Devils, 4-3.
In the championship, a long goal by Jonah Stanley was finally matched in the last few seconds of regulation. Wade Reed’s free kick goal lifted Greenup County to an absolutely stunning defeat of the Lions in overtime.
For the fourth time in five games, coach Andy Zabrieszack received the always refreshing Gatorade bath. Greenup County went on to lose to Pikeville in the semi-state round.
2. Fairview’s New State
“Program win” after “program win,” Fairview football took care of business in the fall of 2012.
That favorite description was uttered by head coach Nathan McPeek following the last couple wins of a memorable 14-1 season that ended on the state’s biggest stage in Bowling Green. The Eagles finally fell to Mayfield in the Class A state championship game.
The unforgettable journey comprised of record-setting rushers, an ever-maturing defense, a defeat of an archrival in front of thousands of fans, and a home state semifinal thrashing of Hazard.
3. Four-gone Conclusion
A special group of four softball seniors — Kelsee Hammonds, Jordan Hensley, Kat Jackson and Emily Preece — capped off their superb careers in captivating fashion.
Ashland had to get past none other than rival Boyd County in the 16th Region title game and it contained tons of drama. The Lady Lions nearly ended the Kittens’ streak of region crowns, but three unanswered runs in the eighth inning locked up the fantastic finish that led to a fourth consecutive state tournament appearance.
4. Whoa! Womack
Kennedy Womack returned to the tennis state semifinal round for the first time since 2009 with a bang.
Womack zoomed through to the KHSAA Tennis Championships singles match against Madie Cook of Notre Dame Academy in May.
Cook defeated the Rose Hill junior, but Womack clearly showed she deserved to be there.
Womack strung together five consecutive matches in straight sets while dealing with smothering heat and health issues.
Now a Fairview senior, Womack signed with Morehead State University this past fall.
5. Meade Amazes
Ashland’s own Jeffrey Meade used putting perfection to become the first Ashland-area player to win the Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior in the tournament’s 29 years at Bellefonte Country Club in the summer of 2012.
Meade’s first round of 66 boosted him to the top of the leaderboard, and he never seized control.
Using two clutch birdie putts in the final round, Meade sealed an emotional win in the three-day event on his home course.
6. Pitching Fits
Ashland left-handed pitchers Sam Hunter and Logan Salow teamed up to lock down opposing offenses in the 16th Region tournament. The two paved the way to the first region title for the Tomcats since 2004.
Hunter fired a no-hitter in a 1-0 first-round defeat of East Carter.
To close out Ashland’s march to the state tournament, Salow piled up 171 total pitches in two nights. He tossed two innings of relief as Ashland beat Russell in the semifinals before striking out 13 batters in a complete-game victory over Boyd County in the final.
Hunter is now a freshman pitcher at Marshall University, while Salow will join the University of Kentucky’s roster as a preferred walk-on in the fall of 2013.
7. Rowan Repeat
“The Big Three” made it two in a row for coach Shawn Thacker and the Rowan County Vikings.
Jason Egan, D.J. Townsend and Adam Wing, who helped Rowan County advance to the state finals as juniors, returned to Rupp Arena as seniors. They were knocked out in the quarterfinal round.
The Vikings edged Ashland in a tight battle for the second straight year in the region championship game. A controversial no-call occurred when Egan batted the ball away from Ashland’s Ryan Whetsel beyond the three-point line as Whetsel tried to get a shot off.
Time expired with the Tomcats coaches, players and fans up in arms. Meanwhile, Rowan County was left smiling once again.
8. Untameable Kittens
Ashland’s girls basketball team enjoyed dominance mirrored by few others in 16th Region history.
The Kittens became the fourth girls team in the past 13 seasons to record undefeated seasons within the region. They went 22-0, beating opponents by an average of 32.2 points per game.
They beat Boyd County in the region tournament title contest to give coach Bill Bradley his first trip to the state tournament.
9. What a Day
In a season that saw Fairview seniors Mike Terry and Kayla Day reach 2,000 points in their illustrious careers, Day’s performance on Feb. 6 took the cake.
Day set the nets ablaze as she scored her team’s first 40 points in a home win over Prestonsburg.
She finished with 49 points on 15-of-25 shooting from the field and 14-of-22 shooting from the foul line. The guard also had 10 rebounds in the game.
10. Matney and a Miracle
For the second time in four seasons, Johnson Central thrilled a rocking home crowd with a one-point victory over Ashland. Both determined the district football championship.
The 2012 version, though, ended with a situation so improbable that Golden Eagles players and coaches thought something supernatural had just occurred.
Ashland had Central firmly pinned against the mat, but somehow the Golden Eagles arose. Ashland led 21-14 in overtime, and good defense put Central in a seemingly insurmountable fourth-and-goal situation from the 19-yard line.
The words “miracle” and “divine intervention” were used by quarterback Zach Gound and head coach Jim Matney when describing the two winning plays.
Gound connected with Dalton Adkins in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown before Jordan Young scored a decisive two-point conversion with a leaping effort across the goal line.
Other stories worth a mention:
-Morehead State hiring Kentucky “Unforgettable” Sean Woods as head coach.
-Ashland football winning its final game at “old” Putnam Stadium.
-Boyd County girls cross country winning the region after several years without a team.
-Lawrence County girls soccer advancing to the state’s final eight.
-Russell-Flatwoods 11-12-year-old softball All-Stars run to the national Central Region tournament.
-Boys tennis: Rose Hill’s David Bush winning his third regional championship and advancing to the state quarterfinals; Russell’s team taking the regional and sectional championships.
-Fairview’s Morgan McIntyre becoming a three-time state champion pole-vaulter as a sophomore.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.
By AARON SNYDER
- Local Sports
VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
- Fleming hangs tough to beat Lewis Fleming County locked into another fight against Lewis County, which beat the Panthers earlier this season, before winning 66-58 on Monday in Morehead. Wilder Williams posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Panthers, who face Ashland on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
- GALLERY: Ashland gets by Greenup County, will meet Fleming in region final Ashland's Steven Friley scored 21 points Monday to lead the Tomcats to an 81-61 win over Greenup County in the 16th Region semifinal in Morehead.
Kittens clamoring for more at state
Ashland girls basketball coaches went the extra mile, and a whole bunch more, to get a first-hand scouting report on the Kittens’ opponent for the State Tournament.
Head coach Bill Bradley and assistant Phil Wittich drove all the way to Henderson — 5 hours, 20 minutes one way Bradley said on the way home — to take in Sunday’s Second Region championship game.
Henderson County, playing on its home floor, defeated University Heights 67-54. The Lady Colonels went unbeaten in their region this season and are 24-5 overall.
EKC hands out hardware
The Eastern Kentucky Conference handed out its 2014 awards on Monday afternoon at a luncheon at Carter Caves.
Barracudas earn kudos from coach
Ashland Area YMCA swimmers impressed coach Ryan Ferguson from start to finish in the three-day Kentucky Y Competitive Swim League State Meet.
- More Local Sports Headlines
- VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights