By MICHAEL CHILDERS, CJ Correspondent Commonwealth Journal
Last year, I decided to write a Year in Review about local sports in the Somerset-Pulaski County area just for fun.
After having all of 2012 to think about it, I thought it would be neat to make it an annual thing, so here is my second annual Michael Childers Year in Review, which will highlight the top moments from the local sports scene from the past year.
The success of the Southwestern Warriors boys basketball team has got to be the biggest moment from the year of 2012, mainly because of their great success in their inaugural trip to the PNC/KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 State Tournament at Rupp Arena.
Steve Wright was brought to Southwestern to win regional titles, and that’s exactly what he did, as he led the Warriors to their first regional banner in school history with a victory over Boyle County in the championship game of the 12th Region Tournament at Pulaski County High School.
The Warriors opened the State Tournament with victories over Hopkinsville and Rowan County, before falling to eventual state champion Trinity in the Final Four. Southwestern gave Trinity all they wanted though, as it was the Shamrocks’ closest game of the entire State Tournament (9 points).
47th District champion Pulaski County, despite defeating Southwestern in both of their regular season meetings, was upset by West Jessamine in the opening round of the regional tournament. Somerset struggled last season, posting an 11-14 record in a season that saw them fail to make the regional tournament once again after a first round loss to Casey County in the opening round of district play.
The Pulaski County-Southwestern rivalry is what stuck out to a lot of fans in the area, as both times the two squads hooked up last season, the games were nothing short of an instant classic. The first meeting saw the Warriors overcome a double-digit margin to send the game to overtime, while the second game was even better, as two overtimes were needed to settle the winner.
On the girls side of things, both Pulaski County and Southwestern advanced to the Girls 12th Region Tournament. A very young Lady Warrior bunch fell to Mercer County in the opening round of tourney action, while Brian Miller led the Lady Maroons back to the regional tournament for the first time since the year, 2004.
Several local athletes made their presence known throughout the Bluegrass State on the track and field circuit, led by state championships from Somerset’s Maranda Mills and Brian Obino, who each came away with gold medals at the KHSAA Class A State Track Meet.
For the second straight year, all six local softball and baseball teams qualified for their respective regional tour-naments. The only two squads to advance past the opening round were the Somerset baseball and Pulaski County softball teams. However, both teams would fall to the eventual regional champions, as the Briar Jumpers lost to Mercer County and the Lady Maroons lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to Boyle County.
With a new realignment for volleyball, boys soccer, and girls soccer, things were a bit different than they had been in the area. For years, in both volleyball and boys/girls soccer, Southwestern, Pulaski County, and Somerset, had all been put together in one district.
That all changed in the fall of 2012, as the districts and regions became the same way they are in boys/girls basketball, softball, and baseball. What that meant was that Pulaski County and Somerset were put together in the 47th District, while Southwestern was placed in the 48th District.
The local teams took advantage of the new districts, as four local teams won district championships. The Lady Maroons won their first-ever district championship, while the Somerset won on the boys side. In the 48th District, the Warriors and Lady Warriors swept the championship matches.
All six local teams advanced to the regional tournaments, but only for a short time, as all six squads were eliminated in the opening round of play. In all, local teams were outscored by a combined margin of 31-2.
In volleyball, for the fifth year in a row, the Lady Warriors of Southwestern won a 12th Region title and advanced to the KHSAA Volleyball State Tournament, where they fell to Mercy, who finished as state runner-up to highly-touted Assumption. Skip Cottrell and the Lady Warriors had final record of 29-11 this past season.
The Pulaski County Lady Maroons, coached by Teresa Combs, finished as the regional runner-up to the Lady Warriors for the second straight season. Pulaski County, who won the 47th District Tournament, didn’t go down to Southwestern without a fight in the championship round. The Lady Maroons finished the 2012 season with a mark of 23-14.
Pulaski County golfer Elsa Moberly had a tremendous season for the Lady Maroons, as she received statewide recognition after being named to the All-State Girls Golf Team. Moberly, who was named the Commonwealth Journal’s All-County Player of the Year for the second year in a row, was the runner-up at the Region 9 Tournament and finished tied for third at the KHSAA State Golf Tournament.
On the gridiron, both the Maroons and the Briar Jumpers came away with impressive seasons, while Southwestern struggled a year after winning the program’s first-ever regional title.
Somerset, for the fourth straight season, finished as regional champions after downing long-time rival Danville in the finals of Class 2A Region 4. Robbie Lucas and company fell to Newport Central Catholic, the eventual 2A state champion, in the semifinals a week after a dominant win over the Admirals of Danville. The Briar Jumpers’ final record was 11-3.
Johnny Hines and the Maroons came into the year as the preseason favorite in Class 5A District 7 - and that’s exactly how they finished the year out, as the favorite. Despite a young group of players, Pulaski County, who finished with a record of 9-4, advanced all the way to the Class 5A Region 4 Championship, where they fell on the road at Harlan County.
Southwestern lost a lot of experience from the 2011 regional title team, making 2012 a rebuilding season at the Reservation. The Warriors, who finished the year with a mark of 3-7, had a slew of youngsters making their first-ever varsity starts - and most of those players had to play on both sides of the football.
One moment that many fans will remember from this past season was all three football teams coming together to show their support for Will Hinton and Jacobi Gilmore, two Somerset football players injured in a wreck in early October.
That night after the wreck, Somerset wore helmet stickers with nos. 20 and 25 on them, while the Maroons placed purple tape on their helmets and Southwestern wore purple wrist tape. Though the teams are rivals on game day, all three teams put on display that life is more important than the game of football.
The fall sports season was a very successful one for the Somerset Christian Cougars, as they tallied a total of four state titles in a short span. In fact, the Cougars won state championships in the sports of soccer, junior varsity volleyball, varsity volleyball, and girls cross country. The boys basketball team is poised to make a run at a state title under head coach Shane Skaggs.
Well, I guess it’s officially time to close the curtain on the year of 2012. It’s been another grand year for local sports, and always, a privilege for me and the rest of the Commonwealth Journal sports department to cover the area’s athletes.
I hope everyone has had a great Christmas holiday and has a safe and happy New Year — see you all in 2013!