Champions were crowned, streaks were ended and sporting figures said goodbye.
These were among some of the sporting highlights of a busy 2012-13 school year, many of which played itself out in the pages of The Times and Democrat. With another school year in the books, here is a look back on the 10 biggest sports stories of the past nine months:
1. State champions
The second half of the school year saw a plethora of state champions emerge from three different high school leagues. It started in February when the Bamberg-Ehrhardt wrestling team completed a “three-peat” when it defeated Liberty 48-32 to win the Class 2-A team title. It was the Red Raiders’ third consecutive state championship. In March, the Lake Marion boys’ basketball team claim its first-ever state title in Class 2-A when it pulled away in the fourth quarter to defeat Newberry 90-81 at Colonial Life Arena. The run of championships was capped in May when Holly Hill Academy and Orangeburg Christian Academy repeated as SCISA and SCACS champions, respectively. The Raiders defeated Thomas Heyward Heyward 2-1 in a Best-of-Three Class 2-A finals, while the Patriots edged Victory Christian Academy 2-1 in its championship game. Meanwhile, the Woodland boys’ track and field team claimed its third Class 2-A state title in school history.
2. S.C. State football suffers first losing season in 12 years.
The last time the Bulldogs finished under .500, head coach Buddy Pough was a year removed as running backs’ coach for a University of South Carolina team which was coming off an 0-11 season. This past season was equally nighmarish from the inconsistent play of the offense to the brutal road trips in non-conference and MEAC play.
3. Tim Jennings makes the Pro Bowl
The Chicago Bears’ defensive back and former Orangeburg-Wilkinson and University of Georgia standout had a career year in which he led the NFL in interceptions. In February, he became the first Bruin since former Tampa Bay Buccaneer All-Pro Donnie Abraham to be selected to the All-Star game in Hawaii.
4. K.C. Crosby commits to the Gamecocks
Recruited heavily by over 30 Division I programs, including defending national champion Alabama, the Bamberg-Ehrhardt tight end made his decision final in June in choosing the University of South Carolina. In some ways, the decision was a formality Crosby acknowledged the Gamecocks were his preferred choice for quite some time.
5. Claflin hires two new basketball coaches
The school did not have to look far to find its new women’s coach as Deont’a McChester was promoted to the position. In the case of new men’s coach Scott Monarch, Claflin selected someone with vast experience with lower and upper Division I programs, most recently as an assistant for Marquette.
6. S.C. State football suffers off-field tragedies
The pain experienced by Bulldog nation was not just limited to on-field play. In May, former defensive lineman Otis “Matthew” Key Jr., 25, was shot and killed during a domestic incident at his Johnston home. He was a member of S.C. State’s 2008 and 2009 MEAC championship teams. Live-in girlfriend Ashley Renee Butler was charged with the crime. The following month, Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive lineman David “Deacon” Jones, 74, died of natural causes at his Los Angeles home. Considered one of the greatest lineman in NFL history and renowned for popularizing the phrase ‘sack’, Jones was one of three HOFers to don the Garnet and Blue uniform.
7. Bulldogs’ basketball team snaps losing streak at former head coach’s expense.
Cy Alexander was hoping for a triumphant “Homecoming” as first-year North Carolina A&T head coach against the program which was now under the leadership of the fourth head coach (Murray Garvin) since his departure in 2003. Instead, an inspired Bulldogs’ team stunned the Aggies 72-70 to snap their school-record 15-game losing streak and 25-game skid in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play.
8. Runner-up finishes for girls’ teams
For the Branchville and Holly Hill Academy volleyball teams and Orangeburg-Wilkinson girls’ basketball, it was a second straight heartbreak in the state finals. All three, along with the Orangeburg Prep softball team, were denied state championships at the hands of familiar foes.
9. Bill Hamilton announces retirement
The hardest-working man in Orangeburg and the only sports information director S.C. State has even known is winding down his 40-year tenure this month. From record-setting individual performances, to conference and national championship-winning efforts, the Chesterfield native proudly detailed his alma mater’s success for over four decades and leaves a difficult void to fill.
10. Zach Godley a Cub
The former Bamberg-Ehrhardt ace saw his stock rise dramatically from getting selected in the later rounds by the New York Mets four years ago. Picked in the 10th round by the Chicago Cubs, Godley looks to follow in the path of other former T&D Region graduates like fellow Red Raiders’ Mookie and Preston Wilson and Holly Hill Academy’s Brett Gardner in reaching the major leagues one day.