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COUNTDOWN: Top 10 games/moments from the 2018 year

January 3, 2019

The area sports scene in 2018 provided some of the most memorable moments in area history.

School records were broken, state titles were won and state history was made.

I only can imagine what the 2019 seasons have to offer. But before that kicks off, let’s walk down memory lane.

Here are the top 10 games/moments from the 2018 area sports year.

10. Bishop Mac’s and Herscher’s playoff runs

There is no better way to start this list than by going back to the football season. An outstanding postseason followed an unbelievable regular season, and what a ride area fans went on. Bishop McNamara steamrolled its way to a Class 4A State Championship appearance while breaking school records along the way. Herscher went on a Cinderella run as a 15 seed all the way to a Class 3A semifinal and set a couple records itself.

9. Kankakee girls basketball makes IHSA history

There’s been so much made about this Kankakee team, and with good reason. I mean, it is undefeated at 20-0 right now and sits at No. 2 in Class 3A. That 20th victory, which came as it claimed the Peotone Holiday Classic Championship, made them the first team in IHSA history to win 20 games before January 1. This team won just six games a couple of years ago, and now the Kays are the talk of the town and Class 3A. I’m sure they have even bigger plans for the second half of the season.

8. Bradley-Bourbonnais upsets Normal, later claims 4A Regional

Man, oh man, this was an instant classic. And it was only a regional semifinal game. Even as hosts of the regional, Bradley-Bourbonnais was a heavy underdog going up against the No. 9 team in Class 4A at the time. But the Boilers did what every Boilers team under Evan Tingley has done: grind. Keeping the score low and using that vaunted pressure defense had the game tied at 41 with a few minutes left. Emma Russell connected on a corner 3-pointer followed by a 15-foot jumper to put the Boilers ahead by five. Normal went on a 7-1 run to regain the lead, but committed a turnover that landed in Mikayla Brandon’s hands. She was fouled and connected on both free throws for the 49-48 win. They followed up with a 67-52 victory against Moline to claim their third straight 4A Regional title.

7. Peotone wins 1A Sectional title

There might not be a better conference as a whole when it comes to soccer than the Interstate Eight. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I’ll take my chances anyway. While Manteno and Herscher always seem to be at the top of the conference, it was Peotone’s year to go farthest in the postseason. After getting by Grant Park, it came down to the Blue Devils and Herscher in a Class 1A Sectional championship. Tied at 1 in the second half, Justin Marevka connected on a penalty kick that pushed Peotone to the top of the mountain, and Toby Cann planted the flag just for good measure for the 3-1 victory.

6). Milford-Cissna Park claims 8-Man State Title

Whether it’s 8-man, 9-man, 10-man or normal football, a state title is a state title, and Milford-Cissna Park owns one. The Bearcats ran roughshod through most of their opponents during the season, including putting up 66 points in the championship. They went from almost not having a program to getting a state crown, and they’ll look to add another one next season. They’ll have more competition soon with the new changes coming to Illinois football in the next couple of years as more teams will either transition to 8-man football or simply erode away. But MCP always can say it was the first 8-man champion.

5). Bishop McNamara downs No. 2 Marist

Just your everyday matchup between two of the best softball teams in Illinois, although 4A Marist was slightly more stacked with six Division I commits/signees. As I said, just slightly, and to be the best, you’ve got to play the best. The Irish started the bout with five unanswered runs via a three-run triple from Gillian McDermott, who later scored on a passed ball and an RBI single from Sophie Kiegher. Jaelyn Vickery (University of Illinois signee) then laced a two-run bomb to push the Irish’s lead to 7-2. Marist rallied late with four runs in the bottom of the seventh before a deep fly out to left field preserved the Irish win.

4). Central wins Class 1A State Title

Simply put, Central’s cross country team was nothing short of machines. No team was beating them stride for stride, and the Comets proved that by winning every single meet during the season. No matter the distance they drove, they always came back with first-place in their back pockets. Their goal was the 1A State title, and they claimed it by four points behind Isaiah Ditta, Jeremy Snejberg, Trevor Swanson, Jerrod Snejberg and Blake Stua.

3). Coal City’s Payton Hutchings throws perfect game

As a former high school pitcher, I only could dream of throwing a no-hitter. Or a shutout. Or even a complete game. Well, Hutchings did all three and in perfect fashion. It was the Coalers’ season opener, and he had just finished the basketball season just a few weeks before. Oh, he was also on the road. Oh, it was also all strikeouts. No, that wasn’t a typo. He threw 89 pitches on the day, faced 21 batters and struck out all 21 of them. Whiff, whiff and more whiffs all night. Easy to see why the University of Illinois went after him and got him.

2). Herscher advances to the State Semifinal in grand fashion

Of the Top 3 baseball games I’ve seen, Herscher owns two of those spots. This Super-Sectional against Timothy Christian literally came down to who made the first mistake. Tyler Stuart was throwing gas, as was Timothy Christian’s Jimmy Allen. Stuart had 15 strikeouts. Allen had 13 despite a strikezone tighter than a closed fist. Neither team reached third base until the bottom of the seventh. Luke Engelman doubled to set up Reece Harrod as a pinch runner. After Harrod stole third after a pitching mistake by Allen, Tyler Jarnagin connected on a hit to right field for the game’s only run of the contest. Honestly, if that ball hadn’t gotten through, these teams probably still would be playing right now. That’s how tight of a game it was.

1). Kankakee upends Bishop McNamara in a Class 3A Sectional Final

Seriously, though, nothing else could top this list. While the regional title Kankakee won was undoubtedly a big deal, this game brought the Kays full circle. Remember the Irish already had pounded the Kays by 29 points, so this was more than just a sectional championship. This game represented a complete turnaround in the whole program. The Kays went on a 16-3 run to end the half, then the Irish countered with a 14-2 run to retake the lead in the third quarter. It stayed nip and tuck during the fourth and came down to the final possession. The Kays went to Tabetha Jones, who delivered with the biggest and-1 in school history to win their first-ever Sectional Crown with a 48-46 final score.

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