I started at Star Local Media last February. In my near year on the job, I’ve covered some good ones – from walk-offs to five-set thrillers and firsts, I’m always willing to give witness to the emotional capacity and high-drama heroics on display in prep sports.
With that in mind, I’ve marked my five best games of 2018 below. My criteria for selecting these games were, on the whole, as follows – what was the game’s impact? Did it have postseason implications? Which teams contested it, and what expectations did that set for the outcome? Finally, was it simply one of those, “I don’t know what I just saw, but I know it was special” moments?
For the year that was, here are my selections for the best games I covered, beginning with No. 5.
5. East, Plano launch eight homers in 6-6A knock-down-drag-out bout
The wind was blowing out, to put it one way.
To put it another, two of the former District 6-6A softball’s most prolific offenses, including one that made a trip to the state semifinal, put on a show.
Plano Senior and Plano East totaled eight home runs between the two programs in an eventual 16-12 win that vaulted the Lady Wildcats into a tie atop the conference.
The box score itself read like a back-and-forth prize fight – nothing seemed decided in the high-scoring affair until a five-run top of the seventh from the Lady Wildcats (that included a grand slam from senior Czoey White) finally put the game to rest.
East junior Carson Armijo had two home runs (and East five in total), but a bevy of errors and maroon-colored persistence helped eventual district champ Plano get the last laugh.
4. Prosper outlasts West in regional final preview
Had I been at more of the Lady Wolves’ matches between the end of 9-6A play and the state tournament, where I saw them fall in the state semifinal, perhaps West’s win over Prosper in the 6A Region II tournament would fall here.
Instead, I chose the game that signaled to me that the resurgence from West’s midseason slump was legitimate.
On Oct. 16, the Lady Wolves and Lady Eagles battled in a five-set match that was a far cry from Prosper’s 3-1 thumping of West in the first half of district play. Momentum whipped around throughout, including in the final set, when Prosper overcame a 14-13 deficit to earn the 16-14 set win and the match.
It would be the last time Prosper would get the better of West in 2018, as a 3-1 victory Nov. 10 sent the Lady Wolves to state and the 2017 5A state champions packing.
3. Hemphill, West walk-off Guyer to clinch postseason berth
For the second time in as many games, Kolby Hemphill came through.
The Friday before West’s Tuesday date with Denton Guyer, the West alum punched through a two-RBI single that put the Wolves up on Plano for good in a 9-8 victory. Then, April 24 against the Wildcats, the outfielder gave West a 3-2 win in eight innings with a walk-off single at home that sent the program to the 6A postseason.
The victory put the exclamation point on a season played for something greater than the game – in the fall of 2017, the Wolves lost Plano legend and longtime fall baseball coach Denny Garver.
For both Garver and former West player Garrett Bruce, who died of a pulmonary embolism that September, the Wolves engineered their first trip to the playoffs since 2013, and Hemphill’s heroic moment will be remembered for its role in that success.
2. Lake Dallas volleyball learns how to win
All season long, the young Lake Dallas volleyball team, which featured just two seniors, had trouble closing.
Late in sets, the story was often the same – get a lead, show some promise, fold under the weight.
Oct. 23, the script flipped.
The Lady Falcons battled Denton Ryan to a draw through four sets, taking the first and second before allowing the Lady Raiders back into the match with losses in sets three and four.
This time, Lake Dallas put its foot down.
The Lady Falcons, without freshman Caelyn Gunn and spurred on by junior Candace Collier’s 14-kill, three-ace night, earned a 15-10 win in the decisive set to set up a three-way tie for the final two postseason spots in District 8-5A.
A beneficial coin flip later, and the Lady Falcons and first-year head coach Jason Roemer had extended their streak of postseason appearances to five.
1. Lake Dallas boys soccer nearly knocks off Lovejoy
Even after Lake Dallas won its first-ever postseason contest a week prior, few gave the Falcons a chance to knock off perennial contender Lovejoy.
For 79 minutes, it appeared they had done it.
In the area-round contest, Brock Pope tallied in the sixth minute to put the Falcons on top. Lovejoy would knot the game before halftime, but a goal from Zeke Maldonado in the 57th minute seemed to salt the game away.
As the clock rolled toward the 80th minute of play, I left the press box, prepared to question Lake Dallas head coach Brandon Martin about his team’s improbable victory.
Shortly after, Lake Dallas’s dream season began taking on water.
Lovejoy’s Tyler Loop sent home a literal last-minute goal to push the game to overtime, where the Leopards’ Grant Lange scored the go-ahead tally.
It was heartbreak for Lake Dallas, but it was the best game I covered in 2018.
For continued coverage of the local sports scene, follow @TaylorRaglin on Twitter.