There is little more than a week remaining in 2017, a year which has been filled with countless memories of great sporting events in our region. That got us thinking: what were the top 15 games of the year? Well here in the WCAX sports department, we racked our brains, ranked them, and over the next three days, we'll count them down for you. Up first, number 15 through 11.
At number 15, the Castleton baseball team rallied to win three straight elimination games and set up a winner take all championship against New England College on the final day of the NAC tournament in May. Local products staked the Spartans out to a lead, CVU alum Davis Mikell crushed a solo homer to open the scoring and Harwood grad Dylan Bailey added a two-RBI hit in the third to make it 6-1. But the Pilgrims roared back: Andrew Castrano's monster 3-run shot in the sixth got NEC back within a run. But in the bottom half, another former Redhawk, Deegan Poland, gave the Spartans the insurance run they needed with the hotshot to score Bailey. Bellows Falls alum Michael Lebeau slammed the door in the ninth and Castleton celebrated a 4th straight NAC title.
At number 14, the Governor's Cup at Thunder Road in July had an interesting quirk from the start, with Phil Scott not only on hand to present the trophy...he was racing as well! But he was only the second most famous driver that day, with NASCAR champion Kyle Busch in the field. This race was absolutely nuts: Scott Dragon started on the pole, he was passed by Jean Francois Dery, but Dragon regained the lead when Busch spun out on lap 20. Dragon then lost the lead on a caution after Shawn Fleury lost a tire. Both Scott and Busch fell victim to day-ending wrecks as well, opening the door for Trampas Demers and eventual track champion Bobby Therrien to battle it out. They fought to the bitter end, but Demers was able to hold off the champ to win his first Governor's Cup!
At number 13, it was a barn burner at the Gut between North Country and Harwood for the VPA D2 boys hockey title. The Falcons would build a huge lead in this one: Dawson Cote with the steal and a couple nifty moves for the tally, then Brady Perron off the steal goes top shelf to give North Country the 3-0 lead. But the Highlanders clawed their way back: Eli Rivers with the swipe and score to get them on the board, and down one in the third, he circled in and fired to even the game at three a piece! But just minutes later, Mitchell Austin rescues the Falcons. He takes it off the boards and scores on the tough angle shot, and Dana Marsh stands tall in net to give North Country its first title since 2001!
Across the hallway to Patrick Gym for number 12, BFA and St Johnsbury met in March for a D-1 girls hoops semifinal. What this game lacked in scoring, it made up for in drama. The Comets built a 10-point lead in the second half courtesy of Andi Esenler, but the Toppers battled back. Sadie Stetson with the big three to tie the game at 26 and force overtime. In the extra frame, Esenler stepped to the line and nailed a pair of free throws to tie the game in the closing seconds. But on the ensuing inbound, Josie Chioniere took the ball the length of the court, put up the contested layup at the buzzer...and it was good! St J won it 32-30 in overtime, though they'd fall in the final to CVU.
And more late drama from the high school ranks at number 11. Otter Valley faced U-32 in the D-2 baseball final at Centennial Field. The Raiders took the lead on a sac fly in the third, but the Otters answered with two in the bottom half on an RBI knock from Reilly Shannon. U-32 trailed 2-1 headed to the 7th, but Owen Guthrie reached second, and down to their last out, Connor Aitchison drove him in with the RBI single to tie the game! But in the bottom half, Otter Valley loaded the bases, and with two outs, Nate Hudson delivered! The base hit to walk it off for the Otters, who claimed their first title since 2013!
The Games of the Year countdown continues Saturday with number ten through number six.