State championships, a new league and Andre Gordon were among the top area sports stories of 2018.
Below are the area’s top 10 stories of the year, ranked in descending order:
10. Miami Valley League is coming back
Sidney and nine other Greater Western Ohio Conference American League teams announced in February they were going to leave the conference and form a new league.
What league? That answer came in May when the teams announced they will re-form the Miami Valley League in 2019. Sidney was one of the charter members of the original incarnation of the MVL, which lasted from 1926 to 1975.
Along with Sidney, original MVL members Piqua, Troy, Greenville and Xenia will be in the league, along with Vandalia-Butler, Fairborn, Stebbins, Tippecanoe and West Carrollton.
The MVL will officially come into existence on July 1, 2019. Teams will begin MVL play the following month.
The departing teams cited forced crossover games and large enrollment disparity among the GWOC’s 20 schools as the main reasons for leaving.
9. Dave King earns 600th career win
Lehman Catholic coach Dave King picked up his 600th career win in a big venue in May.
The Cavaliers beat Northwest Central Conference foe Riverside 11-1 on May 3 at Fifth Third Field in Dayton to give the longtime coach his milestone victory. He’s one of 15 coaches in Ohio history to reach the mark.
“I’ve been blessed with great players that know the game,” King said after the win. “And my assistant coaches, all of them, too many to name, have been great. I owe a lot to everybody. You’re only as good as your players, and it’s not about me for anything. It’s all about the players. A little longevity there for me is all. ”
8. Minster girls get over hump, win state track title
Minster’s girls track team had finished as state runner-up for three consecutive years, including narrowly finishing behind Anna in 2017. But the Wildcats captured the Division III crown on June 2 with a 25-point advantage over second-place Covington.
Minster’s Emma Watcke won her second straight individual title in the 1,600-meter run and was a part of the 4×800 relay that finished first.
7. Fort Loramie, Minster cross country teams dominate at state meet
Fort Loramie and Minster dominated Division III in the state cross country meet in November — though it was a week later than anticipated.
The state meet was postponed one week due to flooding at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. But when the teams hit the course on Nov. 10, Fort Loramie and Minster pulled out ahead.
Fort Loramie’s boys squad won its second Div. III state title in three years with an 18-point victory over Cincinnati Summit Country Day.
Minster’s girls squad won its third consecutive title with a dominating performance. The Wildcats’ top five runners all finished in the top 17 spots overall individually.
Fort Loramie’s girls squad finished second in the D-III race.
“That’s super cool we’re both on the podium,” Minster coach Jessie Magoto said afterwards. “They’re great girls. We know them and we know their coaches well. Good people. They train hard. It’s cool.”
6. Sidney boys clinch 2nd straight GWOC American North title
Sidney’s boys basketball squad had big expectations coming into the 2017-18 season after finishing 18-6 the previous season and winning the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division title.
Despite most of the team’s key players returning, the Yellow Jackets struggled to a 7-5 start.
But Sidney won nine of its last 10 regular season games and managed to tie with Vandalia-Butler for the North title, which came down to a meeting between the two on Feb. 13 in Vandalia. It was the first time in program history the team had captured conference titles in consecutive years.
It wasn’t the last time the teams played in a close game at Vandalia’s Student Activity Center in 2018. Sidney beat Butler 51-46 in overtime on Dec. 18 after trailing by 11 points with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter.
5. Versailles volleyball repeats, New Bremen comes close
It was nearly a double-repeat of state volleyball champions from the Midwest Athletic Conference. Versailles repeated as Division III champs, while New Bremen lost 3-2 to Tiffin Calvert in the Div. IV state match.
The Cardinals had few problems during the season despite playing without all-state selection and current Michigan star Paige Jones. Though New Bremen lost to Fort Recovery and St. Henry in MAC play late in the season, it beat the same two teams in district games and then cruised by Fort Loramie and Jackson Center in regional play to earn a return trip to Wright State’s Nutter Center.
The Cardinals earned a close win over Monroeville in a state semifinal and then rallied from a 2-0 deficit against Calvert to tie the match. But the Senecas went on a 10-2 run in the fifth set to take control.
Unlike New Bremen, Versailles struggled to a 10-10 finish in regular season. The Tigers never lost in the postseason, as they dominated through much of their run to Fairborn.
The Tigers got a close fight in each set of the D-III state match but beat Independence 25-23, 25-23, 25-19 to earn a 3-0 win.
4. Andre Gordon leaves, then comes back
Sidney standout Andre Gordon looked to be finishing his prep career in West Virginia but shocked the area by returning home in November.
Gordon announced in late March he would play basketball in college and wouldn’t play football for the Yellow Jackets in his senior season. He followed a month later by announcing he would transfer to Huntington Prep in Huntington, West Virginia for his last season of basketball.
After giving a verbal commitment to Virginia Tech in October, Gordon left Huntington Prep and re-enrolled at Sidney on Nov. 6.
“Things just didn’t work out as I planned when I went there,” Gordon said after he re-enrolled. “I’m just excited to be back.”
After re-enrolling, Gordon signed a letter of intent to play collegiately for the Hokies later in November in a ceremony at the high school.
3. Fort Loramie football has best season in program history
Fort Loramie fans had high hopes for the football team last fall under first-year coach Spencer Wells. But even the most optimistic Redskins fan may not have been able to predict how successful the team would be.
After losing by 20 points to Minster to start the season, the Redskins rattled off 12 consecutive wins before losing to McComb in a Div. VII state semifinal on Nov. 24 in Wapakoneta.
Few of the games during Fort Loramie’s winning streak were close. After a 21-7 win over Miami East on Sept. 14, they rattled off six straight Cross County Conference wins by at least 27 points each to capture their first CCC title. They then blasted New Miami 41-0, Lehman Catholic 35-0 and Convoy Crestview 48-20 in regional games to capture the school’s first regional title.
2. Minster girls basketball wins state title
Minster’s girls basketball team won its last 12 games and captured the Division IV state title on March 17 win a 15-point win over Ottoville.
The game was close early, but after Ottoville lost standout Bridget Landin due to an injury midway through the fourth quarter, the Wildcats scored the last 16 points and ran away to their first state title since 2004.
Freshmen guards Ivy Wolf and Janae Hoying each scored 15 points in the victory. Hoying started the season on junior varsity and worked her way up to the varsity squad in January. Wolf scored eight points in the team’s 46-31 win over Waterford in a state semifinal.
The Wildcats advanced to the final four by beating rival Fort Loramie 38-23 in a regional final. They had lost in regional games the previous two seasons.
1. Fort Loramie baseball wins state title
Expectations were high for Fort Loramie in Jeff Sanders’ first season as the team’s coach. The Redskins had most of their players back from a regional qualifying team and were thought by most to be a good bet to get back to regionals.
To do more? That task would be tough, as Shelby County Athletic League rival Russia had many players back off of a Div. IV state runner-up team from 2017 and was looking for a repeat trip to Columbus.
And then there was rival Minster, the defending Div. IV state champs. Due to shifting by the OHSAA, the Northwest district Div. IV winner was going to be playing in the southwest Ohio regional. That meant the Wildcats would also likely be a roadblock on a course to Columbus.
The Redskins were the last team standing at the end of the season, though, as they beat Hicksville to capture the D-IV state title.
The regional ended just as most expected: Fort Loramie, Russia and Minster all won district titles and headed to Springfield’s Carleton Davidson Stadium to regional games.
The Redskins faced Minster in a regional semifinal, lost a big early lead and were tied 5-5 late. But Loramie scored two runs in the seventh and struck out three Minster batters in the bottom of the inning to earn a win.
Cincinnati Christian beat Russia 6-1 in the other regional semifinal to set up the championship game with a trip to Columbus on the line.
The Cougars took a 6-1 lead in the fourth inning against Loramie but junior CJ Billing later hit a grand slam to bring the Redskins within one and hit a two-RBI double in the sixth to put the team ahead for good in an 8-7 victory.
The Redskins — which fought back from a tie in late innings against Tri-County North to win a district title — kept the theme of rallies in its state games.
Fort Loramie scored one run in the sixth and one in the seventh to overcome a 1-0 deficit and beat Garfield Heights Trinity in a state semifinal.
The best comeback came in the state championship game against Hicksville.
The Aces built a 4-0 early lead, but Fort Loramie scored eight runs on seven hits in the fifth inning to spark an 8-4 win.
“We pull for these kids so much,” Sanders said after the team won the championship. “I don’t know how long I’ll be at Fort Loramie — I might still be here in 20 years. I get another chance, I get more chances. These kids, especially the seniors, this is it. It’s so rewarding to see those seniors go out on top like that.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.