The Great Lakes Bay region has always been a great area for sports; with talented athletes and a wide array of sports to watch, participate in, or coach, it's a safe bet when I say that the people of the Great Lakes Bay region are some of the most passionate when it comes to anything having to do with sports here in our little corner of the world. Whether it be rooting for one of our four professional sports teams in the state (Pistons, Lions, Tigers, or Red Wings); or one of the many college teams in the area; or even one of the local semi-pro teams like the Great Lakes Loons, Saginaw Sting, or Saginaw Spirit; and especially our local High School, and Recreational teams.
It's time to take a look back at the “year-in-sports” for 2012; from the Tigers run to the World Series, to the Lockout of the NHL season. We will be looking back on the accomplishments of our local semi-pro teams, and the progression of some of the great athletes in this area. Good, bad, or otherwise, the 2012 “year-in-sports” had many news worthy events, and The Review will try to re-cap the 2012 sports year.
2011-12 Detroit Pistons:
The Pistons finished the season with a record of 25-41 and finished fourth-out of-five teams in the NBA's central division of the eastern conference, failing to qualify for the playoffs as one of the NBA's worst teams. Despite the poor showing in 2012; the future looks bright for the re-building Pistons, as they have a young core of players led by Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko, and Brandon Knight. The Pistons -under new owner Tom Gores- took advantage of the poor season by having one of the top drafts in the entire NBA. The Pistons selected Andre Drummond (6'-10” 270 lb center out of the University of Connecticut) with the ninth overall pick in the first round pick in the 2012 NBA draft. The one-time bad boys of Motown also added Khris Middleton (6'-7” 215 lb guard out of Texas A&M) in the second round; along with Kim English (6'-6” 200 lb guard out of the University of Missouri) also in the second round. The Pistons will be looking to get back to their “Bad Boy status” as they continue to rebuild.
2011-12 Detroit Red Wings:
The Red Wings had a disappointing season in 2012; after finishing the regular season 48-28-6, the Wings were knocked out of the NHL playoffs by their rival, the Nashville Predators four games-to-one in the first round. The Wings also lost one of their all-time greats as future hall of fame defenseman, Nick Lidstrom decided to retire after twenty seasons with the big red machine over the last twenty-one years (there was no 2004-05 NHL season due to the strike). Lidstrom joined the team during the 1990-91 season and went on to become one of the best defensemen in NHL history. The Wings secured the 2012 Winter Classic which was scheduled to be played outside at the University of Michigan football Stadium, but the game was cancelled due to the current 2012-13 NHL lockout. The NHL has said that the Red Wings will eventually play the next Winter Classic at the same venue next year (that's if the owners and players can come to an agreement by then). Our own Saginaw Spirit will also participate in the Winter Classic as the two OHL teams in the state of Michigan will compete against the two OHL Canadian teams close to Detroit. The Saginaw Spirit will play the Windsor Spitfires outside at Comerica Park; while the Plymouth Whalers will play the London Knights also at Comerica the same weekend as the Winter Classic. The Red Wings scouts spent a lot of time up here in Saginaw throughout the 2011-12 season and proved why they had spent so much time here when they selected Saginaw Spirit goalie, Jake Paterson number 80 overall in the third round of the 2012 NHL draft held in Pittsburgh this past June.
2012 Detroit Lions:
After coming out of the gates in 2011 as a possible Super Bowl favorite, picked by Sports Illustrated magazines Peter King, the Lions have seemed to go back to their losing ways in 2012. Coming off a 10-6 season and a playoff bid, the Lions were expected to improve on last season, but it seems as if things are back to normal for the Honolulu Blue and Silver. Currently, the Lions are 4-9 and have no chance at making the Playoffs this year.
2012 Detroit Tigers:
With some key acquisitions in 2012, the Tigers made a run for the World Series; only to fall to the San Francisco Giants four games-to-zero. The Tigers made the biggest (figuratively and literally) MLB off-season acquisition when they picked up Prince Fielder as a free agent first baseman to bat behind slugger Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers also picked up Omar Infante, and Anibal Sanchez from the Miami Marlins during the season. Finishing with an 84-74 regular season record, the Tigers secured the American League Central division crown and opened the playoffs against the Oakland Athletics. The Tigers downed Oakland three games-to-two to win the best-of-five ALDS; then moved on to sweep the New York Yankees four games-to-Zero in the ALCS, only to fall to the Giants in the Fall Classic.
Great Lakes Loons:
The Loons completed their sixth season as the single A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Midwest League. The Loons failed to make the MWL playoffs, as they finished with an overall record of 67-73.
The Saginaw Sting completed the first perfect season in franchise history by winning back-2-back Championships in the CIFL. The Sting beat the Dayton Silverbacks 35-7 in the championship game on their way to the second straight CIFL title (third championship as the Saginaw Sting). Quarterback, Tommy Jones (Indiana University) was 22/35 for 233 yards in the championship game; while wide receiver, Jeff Austin hauled in four touchdowns to become the games MVP.
After a coaching change halfway through the season, the Spirit turned things around and qualified for the OHL playoffs behind new coach (and the 2011-12 OHL coach of the year) Greg Gilbert. Gilbert took over a sinking Saginaw Spirit team on Dec, 14 2011 and took his team to the OHL playoffs. The Spirit finished the regular season with a 33-27-1-7 record. The Spirit beat the Sarnia Sting four games-to-two in the first round of the playoffs; only to fall to the eventual OHL champion, the London Knights four games-to-two in the second round. Brandon Saad started the season with the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL, playing the entire pre-season and the first two games of the regular season. Chicago picked Saad up for their playoff run; adding the former Spirit star to their playoff roster when the OHL season had ended. Saad was considered a lock to make the full 2012-13 Chicago roster, but due to the current lockout, Saad was forced to play with the Rockford Ice Hogs of the AHL. The Blackhawks must have liked what they saw here in Saginaw, as they selected Saad's teammate and friend, Garret Ross in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL draft in Pittsburgh. Spirit forward, Justin Kea was also taken in the draft when the Buffalo Sabers selected him 73 overall in the third round of the 2012 NHL draft. Spirit goalie, Jake Paterson didn't have to travel very far for his NHL team. Paterson was taken by the Detroit Red Wings with the number 80 overall pick in the third round of the 2012 NHL draft. Paterson was just recently named to the Canadian junior national team, which will be competing for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship tournament in USA, Russia. Paterson was one of just twenty-three players from a pool of players on sixty teams throughout three separate junior hockey leagues which make up the CHL (OHL, WHL, and the QMJHL). The final twenty-three players were selected to represent Canada as the 2013 junior national team.
U of M:
The University of Michigan football team finished the 2012 Big Ten football season 8-4 and earned a new years day trip to the outback bowl in Tampa, Fl. The U of M hoops team finished 24-10 and qualified for the 2012 NCAA tournament; but lost in the first round to Ohio University of the MAC. The 2011-12 U of M women's team finished the season 20-12 and also qualified for the NCAA tourney, and they, too, were knocked out in the first round by the University of Oklahoma. The lady Wolverines were led by former Nouvel Catholic Central star, and former Miss Basketball, Jenny Ryan. Ryan will be a Sr. this year for the blue and gold. The U of M ice hockey team finished the 2012 season 24-13-4.
The Spartan football team finished the 2012 season with a disappointing 6-6 record. The Spartans were led by former Midland H.S. quarterback, Andrew Maxwell. Maxwell will return to lead the Spartans for his senior season next year at MSU. Former Saginaw High standout, sophomore DeAnthony Arnett transferred from the University of Tennessee this year. Arnett wrote a letter to the NCAA in order to transfer closer to home without sitting out a season in order to be near his father, William (who is suffering from heart and kidney problems). The NCAA accepted Arnett's request and the highly touted flanker had a nice season for the Spartans. Former Nouvel C.C. football players; Shawn Kamm OL, and Gabe Augistin CB were also on the Spartan football roster for 2012. The 2011-12 Spartan Basketball team finished 37-23 and lost to Fresno State in an elite 8 game of the 2012 NCAA tournament. The end of the Spartan season also saw the end of a career for one of the all-time great MSU basketball players. Saginaw High Graduate, Draymond Green finished a great career with the Spartans and moved on to the NBA after being selected by the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the NBA draft. Saginaw Heritage High School grad, Jeff Kinley had a good season pitching for the Spartan baseball team this past season as well. The MSU hockey team finished with a record of 19-16-4 and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Union.
SVSU and Northwood:
The SVSU football team capped an 8-3 season with a 55-52 win over rival Grand Valley. Saginaw Arthur Hill H.S. stars Mike Schaff and Chris Webb, and Saginaw H.S. standout, Rob Clark represented Saginaw on the 2011-12 SVSU hoops team; while this year there is a bevy of local talent on the team. Drew Janer (Bay City All Saints H.S.), Josh Pickell (Reese H.S.), Brandon Havercamp (Bay City Western H.S.), Brady Watson (Saginaw Heritage H.S.) all join Clark, Schaff, and Webb on the 2012-13 SVSU hoops squad. Schaff also plays on the SVSU Baseball team. The Northwood football team finished the season at 5-6 for the season. Bridgeport H.S. basketball star, Darvin Ham jr., and Freeland H.S. star, Joe Ruhlman both play on the current Northwood University basketball team.
Ithaca H.S. went on to win the MHSAA state football championship with a 37-27 win over Constantine H.S. while Beal City fell to Harbor Beach 35-10 in the division 8 championship game. Nouvel C.C. H.S. failed to repeat as back-2-back division 7 Football champions this year when they fell to Flint Beecher in the State tournament. The mighty mighty Trojan Boys basketball team won the 2012 State of Michigan class A State championship at the Breslin Center on the campus of MSU. The Trojans beat Rockford 54-42 in the championship game. Carrollton H.S. fell in the class B regional 62-46 to Corunna H.S.; while Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary H.S. fell to Akron Fairgrove H.S. 48-39 in the class D basketball regional. Midland H.S. Lineman, Steve Elmer is headed to play football for coach Brian Kelly at Notre Dame in the fall. In local H.S. Lacrosse; four Heritage H.S. students were selected to play for an elite travel team in the off-season. Matt Wilson, Brock Makaric, Dom Scola, and Nate Wilkins were selected to play for “The Lacrosse Coalition” based out of Grand Blanc. There are many local athletes who have gone on to play college basketball from the area. Jimmy Davis, Mike Green, and Daniel West, (all former standouts at Saginaw High School) traveled down to Alabama to play basketball for Taledega College. Green started his career at Grand Valley State, but suffered a knee injury, and has since left the Taledega College program and headed back to GVSU. West, originally signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Tennessee, then transferred to Rhode Island, and as of late, West is no longer playing at Taledega College. Jimmy Davis is the lone Saginaw player at Taledega College. Arthur Hill standout, Jordan Hare has been seeing significant playing time at Rhode Island University. Former Saginaw High Star, Tommie McCune left West Virginia University after one season and transferred closer to home to play at Oakland University. Former Arthur Hill standout Maurice “Pookie” Jones played two successful seasons at the University of Southern California, before leaving the USC program this summer due to academic problems; Jones transferred to Iowa State University in Oct. and he will be eligible as a junior for the 2013-14 basketball season.
Local Recreation/Little League:
The Saginaw Township North LL Majors team made it to the Great Lakes Region championship, and finished just one win shy of getting to play on ESPN in the 2012 Little League World Series. The Freeland 10-U girls softball LL team made it to the finals of the state tournament, finishing as the state runner-up.
With tons of talent and great teams across the state of Michigan, and in the Great Lakes Bay region, there is no question that 2013 will be just as good, if not better for the athletes and fans in our area. I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, and a Very Happy and Safe New Year.