The past 12 months have seen a stunning number of tremendous accomplishments by area sports teams and individual athletes. This made selecting the top 10 sports moments of the year a daunting task.
We asked readers to weigh in, and more than 300 of you made your voices heard by voting on the poll on our website over the past two weeks.
In the end, we were all on the same page when it came to the No. 1 story of the year — the Grand Haven varsity girls basketball team, which overcame the tragedy of a near-fatal crash prior to its semifinal victory over Inskter before coming back from 18 points down to beat Grosse Pointe South in the Class A state championship game.
The state title was the first ever for a Grand Haven girls basketball team and the first for any Grand Haven hoops team since the boys last won in the 1930s.
More than 40 percent of the people who voted — 129 voters total — agreed that this was the biggest story of the year.
There were several other memorable moments from the past 365 days, from a state championship by Grand Haven’s equestrian team to a former Buccaneer football player being selected in the NFL draft.
Our top 10 list takes into account the votes cast by our readers, as well as our “expert” opinions.
Here’s our list, along with several honorable mentions that on any other given year would easily receive top-10 consideration.
1. Grand Haven Girls Basketball
Why it’s No. 1: In the face of a tragic community event, the Buccaneers rallied to win the program’s first-ever state championship.
Grand Haven’s girls basketball team nearly won the state title back in 2011, coming up a single point short in a semifinal loss to Detroit Renaissance. Coming into the 2012-13 season, Grand Haven was a clear-cut favorite to get back to the Breslin Center. With returning all-state guards Shar’Rae Davis and Alex Law returning, along with 6-foot-5 center Abby Cole, the Bucs returned almost all of the key pieces from last year’s team. Throw in gritty seniors Jordan Keefe and Morgan Newhouse, and the Bucs had a roster primed to compete for a state title. They lost just once in the regular season, to O-K Red rival East Kentwood, before running the table, winning their final 15 regular-season games. They cruised through the district and regional tournaments, needed double overtime to get past East Lansing in a thrilling quarterfinal showdown, then blazed past Inkster in the semifinals. Five GHHS students were critically injured in a car crash on the way to the state semifinal game, a fact that the team learned following the game. In the face of the tragedy, the team, and the community as a whole, rallied around the state championship game the following day. Grand Haven came out flat and trailed by 18 points in the fourth quarter before staging one of the most dramatic comebacks in finals history. Shar’Rae Davis’ driving basket with 6 seconds remaining gave the Bucs the come-from-behind victory, the first ever in the history of the program. Even more importantly, all five girls hurt in the crash have recovered from their injuries.
2. Nick Zacek’s amazing state meet
Why it made the Top 10: The Spring Lake senior won a pair of individual state championships at the Division 3 finals.
Zacek entered the Division 3 state finals as a favorite to compete for the 200-yard freestyle state title. It was only a bit of a surprise when Zacek swam a finals time of 51.52 seconds to win the 100-yard butterfly state title. Zacek then flexed his muscles in the 200 freestyle, racing to victory in a time of 1:41.78. In addition, the Lakers’ Andrew Hintz placed fifth in the 100 backstroke; Erik Lukkari was ninth in the diving competition; and the 200 medley relay team placed seventh, helping the Lakers place eighth as a team.
3. Evie Lorimer’s brilliance on the diamond
Why it made the Top 10: The Lakers’ senior was voted Miss Softball — the No. 1 prep player in the sate of Michigan.
Lorimer couldn’t accomplish her No. 1 goal — propelling the Lakers into a deep state tournament run. But she did just about everything else on the softball diamond in 2012. Shortly after earning all-state honors on the basketball court, Lorimer returned to the sport that earned her a college scholarship at Central Michigan University — softball. She finished her three-year varsity career with a .490 batting average, a .968 fielding percentage, 99 RBIs, 180 runs scored and 183 stolen bases. She finished a perfect 92-for-92 in steals as a senior. Those 92 steals were second-most in state history, and 92 consecutive steals set a state record. Her name appears in the Michigan High School Athletic Association record book nine times, including triples in a season (fifth) and career (third), stolen bases in a season (second) and career, runs in a season (fifth), base hits in consecutive games (sixth), and runs scored in a carer (22nd).
4. Aaron Beebe’s excellence in the pool
Why it made the Top 10: Beebe won an individual national championship at GVSU, then swam in the Olympic trials
Beebe finished his high school career as one of the top swimmers ever to come out of West Michigan. Instead of following some of his teammates to Division 1 schools, Beebe headed to Grand Valley State University, and the decision paid off tremendously as he became the school’s first swimmer ever to claim an individual swimming national title with a victory in the 200 individual medley. He then advanced to the trials for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Beebe placed 30th out of 135 swimmers in the 200 butterfly prelims with a time of 2:01.20. Beebe also swam in the 200 freestyle and placed 68th out of 127 swimmers with a time of 1:52.19.
5. Grand Haven equestrian rides to title
Why it made the Top 10: In just its second season as a varsity team, the Buccaneers earned a state championship.
With only four team members competing, the Grand Haven equestrian team galloped past the competition and claimed the Division C state championship. Division C is any team that features 3-5 riders.
The Buccaneers’ “Fab 4” of Kaitlin Brace, Stephanie Szymas, Corinna Frings and Olivia Ortiz had such a strong meet, they were guaranteed the state championship heading into the final day of competition at the Midland County Fairgrounds. The team was coached by JoAnn Kosanic. Her daughter, Geena Kosanic, is the assistant coach.
At the same competition, Fruitport’s equestrian team placed second at the Division B meet for the second time in three years.
6. Bassett retires from coaching
Why it made the Top 10: A remarkably successful coaching career came to an end.
Charlie Bassett’s coaching career at Spring Lake could be summed up in two words: longevity and success. He guided the Lakers’ boys program for 43 years and the girls for 35, and while the 69-year-old would have enjoyed shaping more student-athletes on the court, an ailing back prompted his retirement at the end of the boys’ fall season. The Lakers provided him with one last hurrah, however, as they clinched a berth to the Division 3 state finals, where they finished tied for 10th. It was a final stamp of consistency with his teams: His boys’ squads had won conference titles in 23 of the last 30 years, and since 1995, they missed the state meet just twice.
7. John Potter drafted by Buffalo Bills
Why it made the Top 10: Because a true underdog saw his NFL dreams realized.
The Grand Haven and Western Michigan University graduate said he had no idea he would receive a call from an NFL franchise during the final round of the league’s draft on April 28. But when he noticed a Buffalo area code flash on his cell phone, Potter’s NFL dream was realized. He was picked by the Bills in the 7th round with the 251st overall selection, and eventually signed a 4-year contract with the team.
In the preseason, Potter had the opportunity to showcase his booming kickoffs against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in front of several family and friends. Potter admittedly was relieved when he made the Bills’ regular season 53-man roster as the team’s kickoff specialist, but his stay on the team was short lived.
Due to a rash of injuries, the Bills were forced to release Potter after six games. Keeping a positive attitude through it all, Potter said he’s determined to land another kicking job and will undoubtedly be fighting for a spot on an NFL roster come training camp in early August.
8. SL girls cross country finishes 2nd at state
Why it made the Top 10: The Lakers exceeded everyone’s expectations but their own.
Lakers’ head coach Aaron Andres expected his team to be talented, but he didn’t anticipate how quickly the large number of Lakers’ freshmen and sophomores would develop. They grew up in a hurry, and added with standout senior Brittany Beeler, Spring Lake produced its best finish at the state meet — second — since it won the state title in 2001. Beeler surely didn’t disappoint in her tremendous swan song at the prep level, but the Lakers were able to thrive at regionals (where they also finished second) and at Michigan International Speedway due to outstanding runs from sophomores Carlyn Arteaga and Lacie Piekarski, and freshmen Erin O’Keefe, and Brooke Carrier. Arteaga was actually the fastest Laker at MIS, finishing 15th overall, while Beeler was 21st. Juniors Ashley Warner and Jamie Kossuth also added talented depth to the roster.
9. GH girls volleyball reaches state semifinals
Why it made the Top 10: Bucs finally took the next step in state tournament.
Grand Haven had never advanced past the regional round prior to this fall, but a determined group of Buccaneers became the celebrated first. Led by dominating 6-foot-5 middle hitter Abby Cole, who finished runner-up in voting for Michigan’s Miss Volleyball award, the Bucs caught fire in the postseason, where at one point, they had won eight straight matches without dropping a set.
The Bucs’ terrific depth and firepower at the net helped them erase the regional jinx and clinch the title on their home floor. The formula also carried them past Grand Rapids Christian in the state quarterfinals at Coopersville and onto Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek — the host of the state semifinals and finals. The Bucs’ dream season ended on a sour note, as Temperance Bedford cut Haven’s title hopes short in the semis, 3-1.
10. Lakers’ boys basketball beats GH
Why it made the Top 10: It was a Spring Lake win 25 years in the making.
The last time Spring Lake’s varsity basketball program defeated Grand Haven, the year was 1987. That drought ended on the Lakers’ home court on Dec. 21, as Spring Lake relied on a stifling defensive performance and a clutch showing from senior point guard Adam Clauss in the fourth quarter to defeat the Bucs, 50-42. It was also the first win over Grand Haven for Spring Lake coach Bill Core, ending a string of five-straight losses to the Lakers’ neighboring rivals since the contest was renewed after a lengthy hiatus in 2007.
• Grand Haven’s Abby Cole runner-up for Miss Volleyball; named an Under Armor All-American and the No. 3 player in the nation by prepvolleyball.com.
• Grand Haven wrestling wins the program’s first-ever regional title and advances to the state quarterfinals.
• Grand Haven boys basketball upsets state-ranked Petoskey in regional semifinals.
• Grand Haven’s Jordan Keefe places second in the state in pole vault — for the second consecutive year
• Spring Lake boys soccer ranked No. 1 all season; loses in regional finals to Unity Christian
• Fruitport football starts 8-0 under new coach Greg Vargas, only to lose its final two games, including its Division 3 playoff opener to Grand Rapids Christian.
• Fruitport’s Brandon Pastor let go after winning district championship; his team rallies behind him in an effort to get him back on the bench (to no avail).
• WMC boys basketball coach Jim Goorman let go after winning five state championships.