Here we are...the #1 Red Rider Sports Blog moment of 2010 as decided by a panel of one.
I debated over the positioning of every other of the nine selections, and some that ended up not making the cut...but not this one. It was far and away the best moment of the year, and when looking back, it was many memorable moments wrapped up in one.
Ok..no more suspense, here's #1.
#1 - Boys Basketball gets back to the final four.
I had a good feeling about the 2009-10 basketball season, but I must admit, I didn't see "State Runner-Up" as our ending point. I did say we were "due" though, so something was in the air last season. I think that's what made it so special...nobody outside of the Orrville locker room saw it coming, and this team accomplished something that only four other teams in school history had done, and something that hadn't been done since 1996.
A 15-5 regular season was nothing that hadn't been done before in the 14 years since our last district championship....but I think most Rider fans saw the Wooster district as one that we ought to contend for, and if you can win that and advance to Canton, you're just two wins from Columbus, and all bets are off.
It was the Riders first appearance in the Wooster District since 1995, and other than the opening round win over an overmatched Black River team, it was tough going. Hillsdale took the Riders deep into the 4th quarter, and it took a hot shooting night from Jake Bolyard to pull it out. The final versus Triway was a typical Orrville-Triway matchup. The Riders jumped out early and held off Triway late to punch their ticket to regionals for the first time since 1996.
The "hump" game would be the regional semifinal against defending Division 3 champ Cleveland Central Catholic. I think most were happy to just get back to Canton, and if we bowed out, so be it. Orrville basketball was still back among the top teams in NE Ohio. The game was nip & tuck the whole way but the Riders held off the Ironmen for the 65-59 win.
Here's the audio of that game courtesy of WQKT's audio archives. If you want to hear the call of Jake Bolyard's half court buzzer beater at the end of the first quarter, advance to about the 12:50 mark. Trust me, it's worth it.
After that, things kind of changed from "maybe" to "we better." Newton Falls was waiting, and all the respect in world to them, but they were not a team that could hang with our size & depth, and the Riders went out and took care of business and Orrville Basketball was Columbus-bound once more.
Columbus Bishop Ready waited for the Riders in the state semifinals at Value City Arena, and thanks to OrrViews, I got a front-row seat down on press row. It was neat, not St. John Arena by any stretch, but I wasn't complaining.
Again, the game seemed to go back and forth and then it was crunch time. Sam Miller hit probably the biggest two free throws in school history and then it was over...no big deal, right? Riders win and play for the whole ball of wax.
My Heart was Full.
It didn't end like we'd all have liked.....but it's sometimes tough in Orrville to be content with anything less than a championship. It's unfair, really. I tried my best to enjoy the journey and not get caught up in the destination, but that's tough when you have the tradition that Coach Smith and the 1992, 95 & 96 teams established.
When you hang banners, only more banners will satisfy that itch. Again, that's unfair, but that's the deal we cut in Orrville to have the athletic tradition that we do.
Looking back, what an amazing run. First year Coach Sly Slaughter took a team of football players, Jake and Zach, and took them and the town on an incredible ride. What lacked in talent was made up for in hustle, pride and an amazing will. That's the mark they left on Orrville...and we're all better for it.
That's it. The Top 10. Happy New Year everyone. Check back tomorrow for a special New Years Day treat.