Two at the Top in 2012

For the first time, voting on the year's top story ends in a deadlock, with Kyle Singler and the South Medford girls basketball team sharing the honor
Detroit Pistons forward Kyle Singler (25) brings the ball up court against the Miami Heat in the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)AP

Our year-end ranking of top stories might just as well be called the Kyle Singler Report.

For the fifth time in the past seven years, the South Medford/Duke/Real Madrid/Detroit basketball player tops our list as the best sports story of the year.

OTHER MEMORABLE STORIES

Phoenix wrestler Eleazar De Luca wins third straight state title.

Youth swimming, with Aaron Ghiglieri and Breanna Sapienza winning state.

Youth golf, led by Kevin Murphy and Dylan Wu.

Oregon Tech men's basketball coach Danny Miles wins NAIA title.

North Medford football coach Mike Mitchell is hired.

Southern Oregon University wrestling has three national champs, places second.

North Medford boys basketball places third at state.

Cascade Christian football finishes second in state.

Kansas City Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie

Max King and Marci Klimek win Pear Blossom runs

Western Oregon football player Bryce Peila

Alex Young leads Phoenix to second in state basketball, goes on to play at UC Irvine

Former Phoenix wrestler Nick Amuchastegui second in nation for Stanford

San Francisco 49ers draft ex-North Medford player Jason Slowey

Only last year, when North Medford had its football woes, and in 2009, when stories weren't numerically ranked, did he not have a big "No. 1" next to his name. He was second a year ago and would likely have been a contender for the top story in '09.

Singler's year began with him in Spain, having chosen to play professionally overseas as the NBA worked through its work stoppage that began in 2011, when he was a second-round draft pick of the Detroit Pistons.

The 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward helped Real Madrid to the Euroleague championship series in the spring. His team fell to FC Barcelona Regal in a deciding Game 5.

The Pistons kept close tabs on his progress and watched him in person as the Euro season wound down.

They liked what they saw, signing the 33rd overall pick of the previous year's draft to a three-year, $3.1 million guaranteed contract during the team's five-game Summer League in July.

"They were really impressed with what I did in Spain, they said it was uncharted," said Singler. "They never really saw a rookie come into Europe and play well so that was different, and they thought that playing in Europe and coming from a school like Duke with a lot of structure helped me develop as a basketball player more than just coming from college to the NBA."

Singler was expected to be a role player in his rookie season, coming off the bench to help in whatever manner his versatile skill set called for.

He did that for eight games — all losses as the Pistons began the season in a tailspin — then moved into the starting lineup at shooting guard. In Game 9, he had 16 points and four rebounds in leading the Pistons to their first victory, 94-76, at Philadelphia.

Detroit is 10-14 with Singer in the starting lineup. He's averaging 8.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and one assist per game.


1 (TIE). South Medford girls basketball

Just three days into 2012, our headline for the Southern Oregon Hybrid girls basketball preview pretty much said it all: "It's South Medford, then everybody else in the SOH."

It might just as well have said everyone else in the state, for the Panthers crafted arguably the greatest sports season by an area high school team in the 26 years since Medford split into two high schools.

Not only did the Panthers win the state championship, the first Rogue Valley girls team to do so, but they also were the first big-school team in state history to go undefeated.

The Panthers, with a slew of stars, including 6-foot-5 Stanford-bound Tess Picknell, went 30-0 and defeated Westview, 61-46, for the Class 6A championship. It was their third win of the season over the Wildcats, and none of the games were closer than 15 points.

Junior guard Yaremi Mejia scored 16 points to lead three players in double figures, but it was a typically balanced performance across the stat sheet.

Under fifth-year coach Tom Cole, South Medford did it with a versatile arsenal.

The Panthers scored more than 80 points on 16 occasions, hit 90 or better seven times and topped out at 100 in one contest.

At the state tournament their defense was tops, allowing only 47 points per game and 30.1 percent shooting from the field.

There were signs of something special before the calendar flipped to the new year. The Panthers, playing as difficult of a schedule as Cole could manufacture, entered January and SOH play with a 10-0 record. They set about building their SOH win streak to 26 games, where it currently stands, and breezed to the 6A championship.

Cole was named coach of the year. Picknell made the all-state first team, and Mejia and junior guard Kylie Towry were second-teamers.

Mejia became the second player on the team to sign a Division I letter of intent, inking with Portland State in the fall.

South Medford ended the year with their first loss in 34 games, to nationally-ranked Springfield, but followed that with a 2-1 record at a national tournament in Washington, D.C., and a victory over a top-10 team in Riverdale Baptist from Maryland.


3. Danny Berger

Former North Medford basketball standout Danny Berger collapsed of a heart attack near the end of a Utah State men's practice and had to be revived through the use of a defibrillator. An outpouring of support ensued as the junior starting forward, who had his heart restarted through the efforts of assistant trainer Mike Williams, battled for his life.

In the days that followed, and with his family and teammates at his side, his condition gradually improved from critical to fair. With a defibrillator implant, he was released from the hospital four days later and was courtside that night for the Aggies' first game since his near-tragic experience.

Berger, 22, was a 2008 graduate of North Medford. He set school records for points (459) and 3-pointers (53), then played a year at Chemeketa Community College in Salem. After a two-year religious mission, he joined the Aggies. He averaged 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds this season as USU started out 4-1, and he hopes to play again.


4. North Medford softball

Led by Maryssa Becker, who later would be named the Oregon Gatorade player of the year and sign a national letter of intent with Louisville, the Black Tornado went 29-1 and won the program's sixth state championship.

Becker went 26-0 with a 0.43 ERA and 313 strikeouts in 178 innings. In a 3-0 triumph over South Salem for the state crown, she fanned 15 and allowed four hits with no walks.

Becker recorded three no-hitters. She also hit .475 with seven home runs, 15 doubles, 47 RBIs and an .832 slugging percentage.

In all-state voting, she was pitcher of the year and Mike Mayben was coach of the year. All-state honors also went to sophomore shortstop Joci Ellis (first team), junior catcher Katie Williamson (second team), senior center fielder Sierra Berryessa (second team), junior utility player Michelle Draper (third team) and freshman right fielder Grace Jovanovic (honorable mention).


5. Southern Oregon University Football

Coach Craig Howard's second season in Ashland was as explosive as a lightning bolt. The prolific Raiders, with quarterback Austin Dodge at the controls, won the Frontier Conference championship in their first year in the league and advanced to the NAIA Football Championship Series quarterfinals before losing to unbeaten Morningside, 47-44 in overtime.

SOU finished the season 9-3 and fifth in the NAIA rankings. It set the NAIA record for total offense, averaging 642 yards per game, and established numerous program records.

Dodge was the runaway national leader in total offense and passing offense, throwing for 5,076 yards and 42 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions. Receiver Cole McKenzie made the All-America team after catching 98 passes for 1,661 yards and 18 TDs and teammate Patrick Donahue caught 102 passes.


6. Pac-12 Networks

Oregon and Oregon State football fans were infuriated through the fall as the inaugural Pac-12 Networks and major television providers failed to come to contract terms, leaving much of Southern Oregon blacked out as their favorite teams enjoyed wildly successful seasons.

The Pac-12 Networks, which debuted in mid-August, were not picked up by Charter cable or DirecTV, sparking angry missives from viewers and social media campaigns to get deals done. The Pac-12 Networks became available on DISH Network in early September and were also carried on Ashland Home Network.

Pac-12 officials pointed out that satellite company DirecTV — the only top-five provider in the nation without a deal with the conference — and Charter deemed contract terms unfair even though many others had signed on. The TV providers claimed the conference refused to consider distribution and pricing options that would allow an accord.


7. E.J. Singler

E.J. Singler, a junior out of South Medford High, continues a solid career at the University of Oregon, climbing the Ducks' statistical ledgers while helping them to a 24-10 record and to the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament.

The 6-foot-6 forward concluded his junior season as just the 13th player in Oregon history with more than 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. He entered his senior season this winter as the Pac-12 Conference's active career leader in scoring with 1,114 points, ranking 25th in Duck history.

Singler was one of two players to start all 34 games and made the all-Pac-12 second team. He ranked second nationally and led the conference in free-throw percentage (.909, 110 of 121). He was ninth in the Pac-12 in scoring average (13.6) and 16th in rebounding (5.6).


8. Prep Track and Field

Eagle Point's Tyrone Holmes and St. Mary's Sarah Bennion led strong showings at state championships, each winning multiple events to cap their senior seasons.

In the 5A boys meet, Holmes captured his second straight shot put championship and added the 110-meter hurdles title to his take. With a second place in the discus, he was the 5A boys top scorer. He won the shot put on his final throw with a 55-41/4 heave. His winning time in the hurdles was 14.86.

Eagle Point's Garrett Snow set a meet record of 205-8 to win the javelin, and Ashland's Sam Jackson claimed his second 800 crown in three years with a time of 1:56.27.


In the 3A meet, Bennion — who early in the year won the Johnny Carpenter award as the state's top female athlete for 2011 — won the 1,500 (4:59.65), the 800 (2:18.53) and the 300 hurdles (46.06). Teammate Linnea Fong went 10-0 to lead a 1-2 pole vault finish as the Crusaders garnered a fourth straight team title.


9. Cascade Christian Baseball

Cascade Christian (24-7) captured the school's first baseball state championship with a 5-3 victory over Santiam Christian. Jake Miller, a senior, broke a 3-all tie in the top of the seventh inning with a two-out, two-run single to left field. It gave the Challengers a 5-3 lead and marked the first time either team led by more than one run.

Miller's hit scored sophomore Kyle Ferguson and senior Justin Cheney, who each had singled. Four pitchers — junior Daniel Scottow, freshmen Jordan Ragan and Cody Coggins and sophomore Isaiah Luzny — worked, with Luzny pitching the last inning and ending it with a strikeout.

John Bruce was named 3A coach of the year, and five Challengers received all-state recognition: Luzny (second team), senior utility player Josh Brite (second team), senior outfielder Miller (third team), senior first baseman Cheney (honorable mention) and senior infielder Andrew Sha (honorable mention).


10. Medford Rogues Baseball

Medford landed a West Coast League franchise that would come to be named the Rogues through fan voting. The team will open play in 2013 in the top-tier summer wood-bat college league. The WCL, which began play in 2005, draws some of the top college players on the West Coast, with agreements in place with the Pac-12, Mountain West and Western Athletic conferences.

Medford became the WCL's 11th franchise.

Chuck Heeman was hired as general manager, and Josh Hogan, who guided the Klamath Falls Gems last summer, was named head coach. The team will play 54 WCL contests and will have 33 home games at Harry & David Field.

The 31-man roster includes a number of University of Oregon players as well as former local high school standouts Matt Maurer, Colin Sowers, Michael Bradshaw and Billy Hansen.


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