If the year of 2007 will be remembered for anything, it will be remembered for this one word: almost.
The Kinston Vikings boy’s basketball team almost won the 3A state championship. The North Lenoir baseball team almost won the 2A state championship. And the Kinston Indians, after winning both halves of the Carolina League Southern Division race, almost made it out of the first round of the playoffs.
There was still a lot to remember – and celebrate – in 2007. The Free Press sports staff of Bryan Hanks, David Hall, Richard Clark and Keith Spence, along with correspondent Justin Hill and publisher Patrick Holmes, voted on what they considered the top 10 local stories of 2007.
They considered everything within Lenoir County and East Carolina athletics to be local. Here is their top 10:
1. ECU Athletics Director Terry Holland admits to giving a relative, later revealed by The Free Press to be his 51-year-old brother, more than $16,000 in academic aid through the athletic office. Holland later writes a check covering the amount.
2. The Kinston High School basketball team plays in the 3A state championship game for only the third time since 1965, but came up short against Concord. The Vikings end the 2006-07 season with a record of 29-3.
3. Former Kinston basketball star Herbert Hill is named first team All-Big East as a senior at Providence College. A few months later, Hill is selected in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz, but is traded to Philadelphia on draft night.
4. The Kinston Indians win both halves of the Carolina League Southern Division race and earn the right to host all three first-round games against Salem, only to lose the series two games to one to the Avalanche.
5. The ECU basketball team defeats N.C. State, marking the first basketball win for the Pirates over an Atlantic Coast Conference team in 58 attempts.
6. Quinton Coples, considered one of the best high school defensive ends in America, transfers from Kinston High School to Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. Coples, a 6-7, 240-pounder, is later selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Game.
7. The two-time defending 2A state champion North Lenoir baseball team plays East Rutherford for its third straight title. After winning the first game of the best-of-three series, though, the Hawks lose the final two games.
8. Greene Central defensive end Brandon Sutton finishes with 10 tackles and two sacks and is named the most valuable player in the East-West game in Greensboro.
9. Jim Bob Bryant is selected to coach in the Shrine Bowl. He is the youngest coach in the 71-year history of the game that pits the best prep football players from North Carolina and South Carolina.
10. After beginning the season 0-4, the Jones Senior football team wins nine straight games, including an undefeated run through the Coastal Plains 1A. The nine wins ties the school record for victories in a season as the Trojans advance to the third round of the 1A playoffs.