Just a week remains to 2016, a year full of promise and achievement. I’ll use this space to recount my favorite moments and teams in the past year.
• BOYS BASKETBALL: A tough season in the spring has yielded to a lot of promise this winter. Two of the more memorable games I saw were, unfortunately, losses. Hononegah’s buzzer-beating loss in the NIC-10 opener and Turner’s hard-fought loss at Evansville are the two games that really stand out.
I’m hopeful in the same space next year, we’ll be talking about some thrilling playoff victories for our local teams.
• GIRLS BASKETBALL: The Hononegah girls made a run all the way to the IHSA Class 4A sectional finals before falling to Huntley.
My favorite game was Brodhead’s thrilling 71-67 victory over Lakeside Lutheran in the WIAA Division 3 regional semifinals. Then-sophomore Erin Nyhus nailed a clutch trey with time winding down to give Brodhead the victory.
• WRESTLING: My favorite development on the mat in 2016 has been the re-emergence of Beloit Turner as a real power. The Trojans won the Rock Valley Conference South Division title last season, and appear to be a lock to repeat this season. With several talented freshmen, this is going to be a fun program to follow for the foreseeable future.
Hononegah’s Fernie Silva captured the 152-pound state title in the IHSA Class 3A tournament, with Tony Cassioppi placing second.
• BOWLING: It was another fantastic season for the Hononegah boys, who finished just a few pins shy of winning another IHSA state title.
• HOCKEY: The Rock County Fury certainly made their finest run, advancing to the state tourney for the first time. The Fury’s fans made a lot of waves in Madison as well, out-numbering any other fan base by several hundred.
• SOFTBALL: Turner had another outstanding season despite graduating an extremely talented class the year before. The most memorable game was also the final one, when the Trojans fell 2-1 to Columbus on a late home run. Hononegah fell in similar fashion, blowing a late lead over the course of two days as they were eliminated early in the IHSA playoffs.
• BASEBALL: Hononegah and Turner again headlined this group, with the Trojans embarking on a stunning march to a RVC South Division title and the Indians relying on a deep pitching staff to post a terrific season. Seth Smith’s walk-off home run to defeat Edgerton to advance to the regional finals was the top game, but their collapse against Evansville in a wild 13-11 loss was just as memorable.
• TRACK: The season belonged to the Beloit Memorial girls team, who advanced several top-notch athletes to the WIAA Division 1 state finals. Certainly the sectional meet in Stoughton, which saw the Purple Knights nearly achieve a team win ranks as the most memorable.
• LEGION BASEBALL: What a ride the Beloit 19U Legion team gave its fans and followers this summer. They cruised to the state tournament, qualified for the Great Lakes Regional by finishing second and even won a game before suffering two close defeats to be eliminated. A 6-5 victory over Janesville in the regional opener was probably the best baseball I saw all summer. And yes, I’m including the Snappers.
• VOLLEYBALL: It was a bit of a down season for volleyball in the area, but that wouldn’t have been the case had Big Foot star Kennedy Hehr stayed healthy. The Chiefs were primed for a deep postseason run before Hehr went down with a torn ACL.
• SOCCER: Beloit Memorial was again a pleasure to watch. The Knights advanced to the WIAA Division 1 regional final before losing 2-1 in a hard-fought game to Sun Prairie.
• CROSS COUNTRY: Bailey Cronin’s third straight run to the WIAA state meet for Beloit Memorial highlighted the season. Making it even sweeter was the fact she was able to qualify for state at Leeson Park.
• FOOTBALL: The story of 2016 was the Clinton football team. The Cougars advanced to the WIAA Division 5 state semifinal before finally bowing out to Cedar Grove-Belguim. The Cougars’ victory over Lancaster was the best prep game I’ve seen in a long time.