The 2011 calendar year is quickly coming to an end, and soon we will be turning our attention to 2012. Before that happens, let's take one last look back at the year that was. There were highs and lows, controversies and inspiring feats. It was a year with no shortage of surprises and standout moments, and here are ten from the East Valley that stick out the most:
Steve Currier fired
Jan. 11 - Less than a year after finishing 32-0 and winning a 1A state championship, Gilbert Christian boys basketball coach Steve Currier was fired midseason. While the school's administration declined to comment, Currier said he was dismissed at the behest of an influential donor with a son on the team, who perceived his coaching style to be too negative. The Knights were 12-3 at the time of Currier's firing and ranked No. 1 in the 1A division. The team eventually lost in the 1A state finals to Orme under interim coach Jim White. Gilbert Christian chose Jerome Joseph as its permanent coach in early June.
Six on the court
Feb. 25 - The Hamilton girls basketball team trailed Mountain View 50-49 with 6.2 seconds remaining in the 5A-I quarterfinals, and had possession. Following a timeout, the Toros inadvertently sent six defenders onto the court. The Huskies in-bounded the ball, but a whistle never blew, and a last-second shot by Hamilton fell short. Hamilton tried in vain to get a technical foul called on Mountain View, but the officials ran off the floor following the final buzzer. A technical would have given the Huskies two free throws and the ball, which likely would have changed the outcome. Instead, it was the Toros who moved on to the state semifinals.
Jahii Carson's grand finale
March 3 - Jahii Carson's season ended in the 5A-I semifinals, but he didn't go down without a fight. The Mesa boys basketball team's star point guard shot 25-of-38 from the field and scored 58 points in a 96-82 loss to Brophy. Carson, the state's top prospect, had 12 points after the first quarter, 25 at halftime and 44 through three quarters. He missed breaking the 5A state record for points in a game by five, and may have had it if not for fouling out with 1:35 remaining.
Kevin Cron's season for the books
March 25 - Mountain Pointe slugger Kevin Cron tied and then broke Arizona's career home run record on consecutive pitches in a regular season game against Westwood. The intimidating slugger rocketed his 44th career blast out in the third inning and hit No. 45 in the fourth, breaking the record set by Tony Espinoza of Eloy Santa Cruz in 2004. His first round-tripper of the day passed former Desert Vista star Corey Myers' 5A record of 43. Cron would go on to lead the Pride to the 5A-I championship and was the first Arizona high schooler drafted by Major League Baseball, although he passed up that opportunity to attend Texas Christian University.
Red Mountain does it the hard way
May 13 - The Red Mountain softball team may have entered the 5A Division I state tournament as the No. 1 seed, but winning the state championship wasn't as easy as it looked. The Lions dropped a quarterfinal game to Mountain View, which meant it needed to beat the Toros twice in a row in the semis just to reach the championship game. They pulled it off, using a two-run seventh inning rally in the second game to meet Basha for the title. Red Mountain fell behind 3-0 in the championship game but rallied for a 5-4 win and a second consecutive championship.
Dalton Brady's hectic year
June 17 - The last several months have been a whirlwind for Chandler wrestler Dalton Brady. The elite grappler dominated on the mat as a sophomore, finishing 41-0 with a 112-pound state title for his second straight championship. In mid-June, the Olympic Training Center invited him to join its residence developmental team and train in Colorado Springs for the next two years. He initially accepted, but after learning that he was ineligible to wrestle at a Colorado high school, he returned to Chandler in pursuit of third and fourth championships over the next two seasons.
Chandler girls track wins national title
June 25 - The Chandler girls track team has no peer in Arizona, as the Wolves have won the past six state championships. The team showed once again this year that it is the country's best, as well. The Nike Track Nationals in Eugene, Ore., pits the nation's top track teams against each other, and Chandler scored 8,096.71 points to defeat 11 other teams for the crown. Jasmine Todd and Hannah Carson led a star-studded group for the dominant Chandler program.
John Sanders sits starters
Oct. 28 - The most anticipated regular season football game of the year ended up as a dud. Saguaro coach John Sanders sat almost every key player on his team in the team's regular season finale against rival Chaparral and the Sabercats were predictably blown out, 65-0. Sanders didn't want to risk injury, so star D.J. Foster and the majority of the other starters stood on the sidelines the entire contest. There was an uproar for several days and calls for Sanders to be fired. The following week, Sanders let Foster loose against Peoria Sunrise Mountain and the senior set new state records with 508 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. Saguaro (Division III) and Chaparral (Division II) both went on to win state championships.
Gilbert girls volleyball upsets Xavier
Nov. 5 - The Gilbert girls volleyball team rallied to defeat Horizon for the state championship, but it's what the Tigers did in the semifinals that may have been more memorable. Gilbert was up against Xavier, a team that had beaten the Tigers three straight times in the regular season and had won the past four state titles. But behind Cathleen o'Brien, Macey Gardner and Penina Snuka, Gilbert rushed out a two-game lead and held in to defeat the Gators, 25-23, 25-18, 22-25, 25-14 to pull off the upset.
Desert Vista shocks Hamilton
Nov. 29 - Week in and week out, the Hamilton football team absorbed every team's best shot and stayed standing as the state's best team. By the time the championship game against Desert Vista rolled around, a fourth straight state championship seemed just a formality. However, the Thunder had different ideas, as the team played the game of its life to cruise to a 45-19 victory and the Division I championship. It was the most points ever given up by Hamilton, as Desert Vista controlled the game from start to finish in a stunning turn of events.