Without a doubt, this year has had many sports memories. On this, the final day of 2006, we'll look back at Columbia County's finest sports moments from the past 12 months.
These are events when a team, game or event held the attention of the entire county. Each sports memory is ranked, in order, as The Columbia County News-Times' Top 25 Sports Moment of 2006.
1. Greenbrier baseball wins state title
On June 3, a baseball was launched out of the Greenbrier baseball stadium and into the darkness somewhere over the right field scoreboard.
The home run was the second of the game and the third of the series for Greenbrier senior Chris "Fud" Johnson, and it prompted a flip of the bat and an ear-to-ear smile from the starting shortstop. The two home runs, hit in the Class AAAA state championship finals, led Greenbrier in a 10-0 win over Marist to finish a storybook season in which the Wolfpack, with a 35-1 season, won the Class AAAA state championship.
Behind the hitting of Johnson, Rich Poythress and a host of other sluggers, pitchers Nolan Belcher and Brandon Cumpton combined for a 19-1 record and gave up only 22 earned runs in 33 appearances. It was a perfect ending to the coaching career of Greenbrier's Ed Williams.
2. Augusta Christian baseball wins state title
Any Lions fan wanting to know how dominant the Augusta Christian baseball team was in the 2006 season need look no further than Game 2 of the SCISA state title game May 16.
The Lions claimed their second-straight SCISA Class AAA state championship with a 17-4 blowout over top-seeded Wilson Hall. Josh Whitaker started the scoring with an RBI single in the first inning and finished the job from the mound with eight strikeouts in five innings for another Lions title.
Whitaker and Josh Sizemore filled the void left by former Lion hurler Nolan Belcher, and Augusta Christian picked up its fourth baseball state championship.
underclassmen win golf state championship
No seniors? No problem. The Panther golf squad, made up of four sophomores, a junior and a freshman, won the Class AAAA state title May 8 with a combined round of 288.
The freshman, Brian Carter, led the way with an individual round of 69, the second-lowest round of the day, for a three-stroke win over defending state champ Etowah and the rest of the Class AAAA field.
4. Greenbrier girls
basketball win in
Beyond being the best in Columbia County, the Lady Wolfpack proved height is overrated. A 54-40 win over Westside, Macon in the state quarterfinals Feb. 25 in Columbus gave the teem the right to go where no public school girls team from Columbia County had gone before: the Class AAAA state semifinals.
5. Greenbrier football victory over Evans
It was the kind of statement win tht Scott Chadwick needed. Chadwick, in his first season as Greenbrier's football coach and athletic director, saw his team trail by 10 points twice in a home game against rival Evans on Sept. 22. Greenbrier drove 56 yards in 52 seconds, though, then capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown dive from junior quarterback Nick Richards with 1.4 seconds remaining for a come-from-behind win. Columbia County hasn't seen much success in football, but this early-season nail-biter was the best game this county has seen in a long time.
6. Evans boys basketball region semifinals win
On Feb. 10, Evans' boys basketball team found itself in a tie game with Statesboro with 33 seconds left and a shot at the Region 2-AAAA championship game on the line. Statesboro had the ball, but Evans guard Brandon Durr forced a jump ball to give possession back to the Knights. Evans sharpshooter Glen Miller finished off the Blue Devils with a fade-away 3-pointer in the corner that went in as time expired. The win highlighted the best Evans basketball season in recent memory with a 24-6 overall record.
7. Harlem baseball
earns state playoff win
Though Harlem didn't field the best baseball team in the county in 2006, head coach Jimmie Lewis' crew found a way to get back to the state playoffs again. In the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs, the county's winningest baseball coach stuck Harlem pitcher Mike Sanders on the mound twice in two days over the weekend of May 12-13.
Sanders didn't disappoint. In a true test of endurance, the junior went the distance with a 63-pitch vi ctory in game 1 and did the same thing on the next day in game 3. Harlem won the series 2-1 to advance to the second round of the state tournament.
8. Greenbrier soccer wins at St. Pius X
In 2005, Greenbrier's boys soccer season ended on the unfamiliar Field Turf at St. Pius X in the state quarterfinals. On May 5, 2006, the Wolfpack got its opportunity for revenge by facing the private school powerhouse on the road in the state quarterfinals.
Greenbrier earned revenge with a 3-1 win to advance to the state semifinals. The Wolfpack finished the year ranked No. 3 in the state, with a 20-2 record.
9. Greenbrier softball two extra-inning wins
at state finals
Ash Florie, a senior on the Lady Wolfpack softball squad, wasn't the top player on the team this year, but her heroics at the Class AAAA state finals in Columbus put her name in the Greenbrier record books. Florie's RBI single in the eighth inning against Cherokee on Oct. 28 proved to be the game-winner and gave Greenbrier a fourth-place finish in the tournament. The Lady Wolfpack went 33-8, including an 11th-straight region championship.
10. Augusta Christian football makes it back
to state title game
It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Lions, but the Augusta Christian football squad climbed all the way back to the state finals.
A 21-14 state quarterfinals win at Laurence Manning on Nov. 10 came from Tyler Bourdo's two touchdown passes and a Kyle Meeks touchdown run to send the Lions to yet another state title game.
The rest of the best:
11. On Oct. 28, the Augusta Prep volleyball Lady Cavaliers swept through the rest of the GISA Class AAA competition in their home gym to claim the school's first volleyball title and finish the season 19-3.
12. The Augusta Christian girls track team won a SCISA Class AAA state championship April 29 and finished 53-0.
13. With seven seniors on the team, the Evans volleyball squad won its first area title with a 3-0 sweep at rival Greenbrier on Oct. 17. The best-ever volleyball season at Evans ended with a state tournament first-round win and a 31-3 record.
14. In the best girls basketball season in school history, the Augusta Christian Lady Lions (23-7) reached the SCISA Class AAA state semifinals with a win over Orangeburg Prep in the state quarterfinals Feb. 27.
15. Greenbrier's boys basketball team gave its fans another reason to give thanks after a 49-45 win over rival Evans on Nov. 20 in the first round of the Turkey Tip-Off Tournament at Harlem.
16. Lakeside's boys tennis team made a run to the Class AAAA state finals on May 12 after winning the Region 2-AAAA title. Although the Panthers came up short of a state title, seniors Jordan Walters and junior Rich Pugh went undefeated in singles play for the season.
17. With a 9-8 record, the Evans boys soccer team didn't even qualify for the state playoffs, but the season was saved when the Knights handed rival Greenbrier its first loss of the season with a 3-2 shoot-out win April 13.
18. Lakeside's baseball team, the region's fourth-seed, erupted April 27 to sweep top-seeded Statesboro (ending the Blue Devils' season) and earned a spot in the Class AAAA state tournament.
19. The 2006 baseball Knights were overshadowed by cross-town rival Greenbrier, but Evans' first-round state tournament sweep of Lee County was sweet revenge over the team that knocked out the Knights in 2005.
20. The future of Evans football couldn't look any brighter after the junior varsity Knights wrapped up the season with a perfect 7-0 record and ownership of The Columbia County News-Times County Cup.
21. On March 24, history was made in the Greenbrier soccer program when senior Stephanie Fransoso netted her 100th career goal in a 2-1 loss to Lovett.
22. Harlem's girls soccer team made a deep run in the Class AAA state tournament by knocking off Westover on May 3 in the second round of the state playoffs before losing to top-ranked Westminster in the quarterfinals.
23. Nothing could have been sweeter for the Lakeside Lady Panthers soccer team than its 1-0 upset win over Greenbrier on April 20 to avenge an earl-season loss to the Lady Wolfpack.
24. Led by senior Troy Moore, the Harlem boys tennis team earned a home match in the Class AAA state playoffs April 29. Moore later became the first Harlem tennis player to sign a scholarship when he committed to play at Winston-Salem State.
25. A new sport introduced itself to Columbia County when Lakeside fielded the first high school lacrosse team the county had seen. The first home contest took place Feb. 28 and was a 15-3 Lakeside blowout win over White Knoll.
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