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Waterford boys' basketball title voted The Day's top sports story of 2012

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published January 01. 2013 4:00AM
Peter Huoppi/The Day
Waterford High School's Mike Martin cuts down the net in a celebration a few days after the Lancers' Class M state boys' basketball championship on March 17, its first in program history. Waterford's title was named The Day's top sports story of the year.

Historical title for Waterford boys is top story

The years pass and the stories get better. And 2012 was among the most memorable, a collage of championships, milestones, triumph, joy, loss and controversy.

Hope it was as fun to pick up the newspaper and log on to theday.com as it was to write it.

What follows are The Day's Top 10 stories of the year - limited to stories and events The Day covered - as voted on by The Day sports staff. The list flows in descending order (just to keep you in suspense):

No. 10: Welcome to Groton, Marc Peluso

Fitch High School baseball added its fourth championship banner to the walls of its gymnasium. But it was the first title for coach Marc Peluso, who assumed the program from one of the state's career greats, Ed Harvey. The Falcons rallied from a 4-1 deficit to support the pitching of Shawn Nadeau for a 6-4 win over New Canaan at Palmer Field in Middletown.

No. 9: To the finals for NFA

Norwich Free Academy's football team became the state's biggest story during the postseason. The Wildcats eclipsed 60 points at Newtown in the state's quarterfinals before pulling off the state's biggest upset in the semifinals, a 30-28 win over Staples of Westport. Running back Marcus Outlow, quarterback Joey Paparelli and receiver Ryer Caruso all helped the Wildcats to the Class LL finals until they met eventual champion Xavier of Middletown.

No. 8: 21 up, 21 down

Stonington High School junior Andrea Chiaradio made national news during the softball season, not merely pitching a perfect game over Norwich Free Academy. She struck out all 21 batters she faced. Chiaradio, whose story made national web sites and publications, pitched another no-hitter later in the season.

No. 7: Gold for Geno, USA

The United States Olympic women's basketball team won gold in London with a team whose ties to Connecticut were seemingly endless: UConn coach Geno Auriemma, former UConn greats Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Asjha Jones, Swin Cash, Maya Moore and Tina Charles and former Connecticut Sun guard Lindsay Whalen were all members of the team.

No. 6: No. 16 is No. 1 at CGA

Hayley Feindel, who wore number 16, watched her number be retired at Coast Guard Academy. She finished her magnificent softball career as the NCAA Division III all-time leader in wins (124), strikeouts (1,457), innings pitched (1,029.7), games (160), games started (156) and complete games (140). She graduated with a career record of 124-30 with nine no-hitters and a pair of perfect games, leading the Bears, once again, to the NCAA Tournament.

No. 5: Dunn done at NL

Kris Dunn's basketball career at New London High School was capped with a one-of-a-kind honor in the program's storied history: Dunn was named a McDonald's All-American. Dunn, honored with his own banner at Conway Gymnasium, led the Whalers to their fifth straight league tournament title and to the Class LL semifinals. He sustained a shoulder injury late in the year but has since recovered and is playing at Providence College.

No. 4: No postseason at UConn

Insufficient academic performance prompted the NCAA to issue a postseason ban on the UConn men's basketball program. The Huskies, despite appeals, learned they would not play in the Big East tournament or NCAA tournament this season.

No. 3: Sun sets on Thibault

Mike Thibault, the only coach in the 10-year history of the Connecticut Sun, was fired in mid-November, stunning women's basketball. Thibault led the Sun to more than 200 wins, two trips to the WNBA finals and four Eastern Conference regular season titles - including the regular season crown in 2011 - in his tenure. He was named WNBA Coach of the Year twice. Connecticut still does not have a head coach. Thibault, meanwhile, was named head coach of the Washington Mystics earlier this month.

No. 2: Calhoun retires

Jim Calhoun retired as UConn men's basketball coach in September, finishing his career with an overall record of 873-380, sixth on the NCAA's all-time wins list. His 1,253 games coached is third all-time. He is 625-243 at UConn, the most wins in school history. The Huskies won championships in 1999, 2004 and 2001, making Calhoun just one of five coaches in history with three or more titles. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.

No. 1: 'Hoosiers' in Waterford

The top story of the season happened on St. Patrick's Day at Mohegan Sun. Waterford won the first basketball state championship in the school's 55-year history, defeating Watertown before nearly 7,000 fans. Coach Greg Gwudz, game MVP Nolan Long and seniors Geary McLeod, Ron Baude, Mike Martin and Cory Murallo led the Lancers to a 24-2 record. The Day's Dave Davis, who covered two state tournament games, said of the experience, "it was like 'Hoosiers.'"

Also receiving votes

Fitch graduate Matt Harvey makes Major League Baseball debut, Ledyard High School wrestling wins its record 18th straight state title, Kelli Connors of Waterford named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year, Bacon Academy girls' basketball wins Class L state title; Ledyard volleyball wins its first state title, Brianna Lenehan of NFA (cross country) and Jessica Hespeler (swimming) win individual state titles, the UConn women make their fifth straight Final Four and Tina Charles of the Connecticut Sun is voted WNBA MVP.

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