Another school year has come and gone, but this one was much sweeter than year’s past.
A year ago this time we were in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic and having a school year seemed like a far off dream. That went ditto for a sports season.
But we got through it and, despite the constant fear of being shut down, powered through every sport. That means for the first in two years we have a full season of games to countdown.
So without further ado, here’s the best of the best. Keep in mind the games listed will only be games I covered in person.
10 - Lawrence County vs. Madison Academy, volleyball
It was like Deja-Vu for Lawrence County
The Red Devils faced off against Madison Academy in the finals of the Class 5A Area 15 championship.
After taking the first set 25-21, the Red Devils quickly found themselves in a hole, down 2-1 after dropping sets two and three 25-21 and 26-24.
It was eerily similar to a year ago when, in the finals of the area tournament against West Point, Lawrence County also got down 2-1.
But just like they did against the Warriors, Lawrence County found a way to come back and win the area title.
9 – Lawrence County vs. Hatton, softball
The second meeting between the two county rivals was almost as exciting as the first.
It didn’t seem like it would be that way as Hatton jumped out to a 5-0 lead.
The Red Devils responded with a four run fifth that included a two RBI double from Mackenzie Hyche.
Hatton came away with the win 5-4, with the biggest play coming from Lillie McGregor, who used aggressive base running to score on a run on a sacrifice foul ball not far from home plate.
8 – Lawrence County vs. Curry, softball
Lawrence County’s softball team said goodbye to seven special seniors in the grandest way possible.
Trailing 4-1 against 4A heavyweight No. 2 ranked Curry, the Red Devils mounted an improbable comeback
Pitcher Patti-Anne Smith, who surrendered a three run homer in the first inning, rebounded to allow just one unearned run in the final six innings.
On the offensive side, after scoring three runs without an RBI, Anna Clare Hutto tied the game on her first career homerun. Madelyn Ray then capped off her last home game with a go ahead two RBI double to take the win 6-4.
7 – Lawrence County vs. Hatton, softball
The two county softball powers had a couple exciting meetings this season but it was their first that took the cake.
An early season special that saw both teams trade leads saw Lawrence County go up first 2-0 on a two RBI single from Rylie Terry. Hatton responded with scoring runs on a bases loaded walk and sacrifices from Bradyn Mitchell and Mallory Lane.
This set up the game winning play that saw then nine hole hitter Maggie Shelton hit the go ahead two RBI triple with two outs to give Lawrence County the win 4-3.
6 - East Lawrence vs. West Morgan football
Nothing like exciting action on the gridiron and this game was one of the best.
Facing rival West Morgan for the first time since 2017, the Rebels were about to put the game away when, instead, Isiah Hubbard picked up a fumble and ran it all the way to the other endzone for the game winning touchdown.
East Lawrence went on to finish the season 9-1, their first winning season since 1997, and also claimed the region championship. While the Eagles would’ve no doubt earned a winning season, it’s possible their season wouldn’t have been as successful if not for the momentum from this come from behind win.
5 – Hatton vs. Cold Springs, boys basketball
A magical season that saw Hatton reach the Final Four for the first time since 1999 saw lots of twists and turns along the way.
The Hornets had a knack for the dramatic, or if you ask their fans, for giving heart attacks. That was on display during their sweet 16 matchup with Cold Springs.
Normally the sweet 16 is played at Wallace State, however this year Hatton had to go on the road.
Things looked bleak when the Hornets scored just seven third quarter points and trailed by 10 early in the fourth. But in true dramatic fashion, Hatton outscored the Eagles 23-10 in the final quarter to come from behind and punch their ticket to Elite Eight.
4 – Lawrence County vs. East Lawrence, boys basketball
Not only did Lawrence County basketball go on without a hitch this year, but it also proved to be one of the most exciting in recent history.
Hosted by East Lawrence High School, the Eagles looked sure to use their home court advantage to pull an upset over top seeded and defending champions Lawrence County.
That is until Alandis Johnson knocked down three three pointers in the final 1:09 to give his team the comeback win.
3 - R.A. Hubbard vs. Decatur Heritage, football
The only loss without a win for a county team on this list, the excitement of this game deserved a place despite that fact.
In what was the wildest game of the football season, these two teams combined for 79 points, but also 10+ turnovers as the action went back and forth all night, before the Eagles were ultimately able to squeeze by.
The game was almost as exhausting to watch as it was for the players to play in, but fans soaked up every minute of this truly exciting affair.
2 – Hatton vs. Sheffield, boys basketball
22 years after leading Hatton to the Final Four as an All-State player, Henley returned to lead them again, this time as a coach.
And what a ride it was.
Hatton trailed the first three quarters, falling behind by as much as 14 points.
Multiple players played a key factor in the Hornets’ second half comeback. Jaxson Mitchell had two clutche three pointers, while Braden Stafford hit the go ahead shot with 45 seconds left to finish with 10 points. Possibly the biggest impact came from Kris O’Dell. In a play reminiscent of LeBron James’ block in the 2016 NBA finals, O’Dell chased down a Sheffield defender, blocked his shot then turned it into a three-point play on the other side. He finished with 12 points, 10 of which came in the second half.
In the end though, it was Ridge Harrison that made the biggest impact, finishing with a game high 16 points as the four year starter led Hatton to a 50-47 win.
1 – East Lawrence vs. Hatton, boys basketball
The final game of the Lawrence County tournament was exciting, but it was this semifinal matchup that took the cake.
East Lawrence stunned the Class 2A No. 8 Hatton Hornets 72-70 (OT).
The Hornets came in riding high on a six-game winning streak, looking to win their first county title since 1977. Meanwhile East Lawrence, coached by Baine Garner who returned this year after coaching the Eagles in the early 2000s, was just a season removed from winning one game.
None of that mattered on this night though. East Lawrence jumped out to a 31-14 first half lead and led 42-22 in the third quarter.
Eventually Hatton found life, going on a 21-3 run late in the game where eventually they would take the lead.
But when the game was in jeopardy, Payton Davenport was there to save the day.
With two starters fouled out and several more in trouble, Davenport delivered a clutch fourth quarter and overtime performance, finishing the game with 22 points. That included a tying buzzer beating shot to send the game to overtime.
Once there East Lawrence finished off the win in what was truly the best game of the 2020-21 school year.