As the final seconds wind down and the curtain drops on 2017, it gives high school sports fans a chance to pause, reflect and remember the moments that took your breath away, brought you to your feet, welled up your eyes and made you proud.
Some, as is often the case, made The Times-Tribune Top 10 Local Sports Stories of 2017. The double-truck presentation designed by Conor Foley depicts many of these events.
Any time an athlete from the area achieves gold in an individual event it is cause for celebration. In two days, two standout track and field athletes earned PIAA championships in their respective competitions. Dunmore’s Gavin Darcy struck gold in the Class 2A javelin, an event he has dominated on a local, state and national level. The next day, Western Wayne’s Ryan Atcavage soared above 15 feet and won the Class 2A pole vault gold medal. Their combined achievements were at No. 3 in the Top 10, which was the highest for high school stories.
- How could anyone forget the magical roller-coaster ride the Abington Heights Comets boys basketball team took their loyal, legion of fans? They kept rising to each new and more daunting challenge, putting together a pair of dramatic double-overtime wins in the PIAA playoffs before falling just short of a trip to Hershey in the new Class 5A. That three-week stretch of games for a team guided by one of the great coaches of all time, Ken Bianchi, landed at No. 6 in the final poll.
- Katie Dammer, a remarkable athlete from Abington Heights, grabbed her share of headlines. Her graceful stride combined with the competitive spirit of a bulldog dominated the distance races in the spring for track and field and in the fall for cross country. Her back-to-back record-setting years, and commitment to Georgetown University, put her at No. 7 on the list for the year.
BEST OF THE REST
PITCH COUNTS HIT HIGH SCHOOL
The PIAA imposed pitch counts for high school baseball this spring, and put it on the teams and coaches to police themselves, moving away from traditional innings limits. Under the policy, high school pitchers will be restricted to 100 pitches in one outing. They can exceed 100 to complete an at-bat. Players who throw 76-100 pitches in one game will require three calendar days of rest; 51-75 pitches results in two days of rest; 26-50, one day of rest; and at 1-25, no rest is required. Pitchers can throw no more than 200 pitches in a calendar week.
LOYD LEADS SCRANTON GIRLS TO FIRST DISTRICT TITLE SINCE 2008
Scranton senior Ciaira Loyd, who would go on to be named The Times-Tribune Girls Basketball Player of the Year, scored 22 points as Scranton won its first District 2 girls basketball championship since 2008 with a romp over Hazleton Area, 56-25, at the Mohegan Sun Arena. In the first round of the PIAA playoffs, Loyd also became the program’s all-time leader in points scored for a career with 1,319. Scranton finished the year with a record of 18-6.
EVANITSKY, BALAVAGE AND UHRIN EARN STATE MEDALS IN WRESTLING
Scranton wrestler Willie Evanitsky, Scranton Prep’s Ivan Balavage and Valley View’s Brett Uhrin placed in the top 10 at the PIAA Wrestling Championships. Evanitsky finished fifth at 145 pounds in Class 3A. He earned a 5-3 decision over Big Springs’ Tucker Brough in his consolation bout to have the top finish among Lackawanna League wrestlers. In Class 2A, Balavage finished seventh at 195 pounds, beating Greenville’s Jacob McMaster, 8-4, for Scranton Prep’s first state medal in wrestling. Uhrin lost his seventh-place match at 138, but won his third consecutive District 2 title and first Northeast Regional championship.
145 Fifth Class 3A
195 Seventh Class 2A
Valley View 138
Eighth Class 2A
BLAISURE WINS 500TH SOFTBALL GAME
Elk Lake’s Whitney Tyler tripled, doubled and fired an 11-strikeout, one-hit gem to give Lady Warriors head coach Tony Blaisure his 500th softball coaching victory in an 8-0 shutout of Forest City. The 56-year-old Blaisure earned the win in his 32nd year.
SPARTANETTES REACH STATE SOFTBALL SEMIS
Mid Valley needed to rally to win its District 2 softball semifinal, 9-7, after falling behind Lakeland, 5-1. Then the Spartanettes ended the two-year reign of state champion Holy Redeemer, 6-4, in eight innings in the championship game. Emily Morano slammed a two-run home run in the top of the eighth inning for the decisive runs and the program’s first district title since 2002. Mid Valley then edged North Penn, 2-1, and defeated Brandywine Heights, 4-2, before falling to Pine Grove, 10-5, in the state semifinals. Catcher Abbie Mills, who batted .667 in the postseason, and freshman first baseman Lacy Harrington were named to the Class 3A all-state first team. Sophomore Danielle Jason, who committed to Robert Morris later in the year, received her second straight second-team berth at second base and junior pitcher Mia Pawelski moved up from honorable mention to second team as the designated player for the Spartanettes.
WALLENPAUPACK BASEBALL COMES UP SHORT IN SEMIS
Leaning on a pair of senior aces, Austin Gilpin and Aaron Husson, Wallenpaupack made a run to the Class 5A baseball semifinals, only to come up short when Whitehall scored five runs with two outs in the fourth inning. The Buckhorns punched their ticket to the PIAA tournament with the program’s first District 2 title. Gilpin had a terrific outing in the state quarterfinals in a 2-0 victory over District 1 champion Marple Newtown. He had seven strikeouts and only one walk in six innings, and lowered his season ERA to 0.83. Tyler Kirsten and Derek Vosburg each had RBIs in the win.
MATT SLAGUS FINISHES IN TOP 10
Matt Slagus capped his remarkable track and field career among the best in the country. During competition at the New Balance National Championship meet at North Carolina A&T University, Slagus, a University of South Dakota commit, finished 10th in the hammer throw, and followed up with an eighth-place finish in the championship discus. He had a best mark of 183 feet, 10 inches on his second attempt and finished with three of six better than 180 feet. Also at the national meet. Dunmore’s Gavin Darcy (javelin, third) and Abington Heights’ Katie Dammer (one mile, seventh) also placed in the top 10, while Scranton’s Ky’Ron Harbin finished 13th in the triple jump with a mark of 47-4.5.
ANDERSON NAMED ALL-STATE IN TWO SPORTS
Abby Anderson, a standout in basketball and softball at Holy Cross, was named to all-state teams in both sports as a senior. She became Holy Cross’ all-time leading scorer in girls basketball, finishing her career with 1,501 points, and was named to the Class 3A all-state third team. She was named first-team all-state in softball and led her team to the Class 2A state quarterfinals while batting .506. Anderson is playing basketball at St. Francis (N.Y.).
SCRANTON PREP WINS GOLF SILVER MEDAL
After a sudden-death playoff to beat Dunmore in the Lackawanna League championship match, Scranton Prep advanced to win the district and regional titles and finished second at the PIAA championships in Class 2A, becoming only the league’s second team to win a state medal. Led by a strong senior class, and standout Jack Habeeb, who earned a seventh-place state medal in the individual tournament, the Cavaliers shot 322 to finish 11 strokes back of Sewickley Academy. Habeeb shot a 75, while Dan Hinton shot 80, Collin Ennis had 83, MJ Stivala had 84 and Josh Villarosa shot 85 for the Cavaliers.
LFC CHAMPIONS FINISH UNBEATEN
In the second year of a two-year cycle with the new six-classification format in the PIAA and an adjusted alignment in the Lackawanna Football Conference, all three division champions finished undefeated in the regular season. Delaware Valley captured the Division I title, Scranton Prep won the Division II crown, and Dunmore won the Division III title. All had 10-0 records and went on to be 12-0 after their respective District 2 playoff games. Also, five LFC teams won district championships as Valley View won in Class 4A and Old Forge won the Class 1A crown. Scranton Prep went on to win a state playoff game, as well, and finished 13-1. Dunmore won two state playoff games and finished 14-1 overall. Valley View added another trophy to the case for the conference with a win in the District 2 Class 4A final, while Old Forge conquered and won the District 2 Class 1A championship.