A year of championships, suspensions and seemingly endless tension dominated the Pasadena-area sports scene in 2012.
While the writers and editors of the Pasadena Sun came up with a list of 30 impact events that took place within the coverage area, here are our top 10 stories of 2012.
1) Michelle Miller climbs up the scoring list and finishes No. 2 in the Southern Section and fifth in state in scoring.
Much attention came to Miller on Jan. 7 in an evening Prep League contest at the Webb Schools.
With television crews from KTLA and Fox Sports on hand along with a packed crowd, Miller scored 45 points and hauled in 17 rebounds in the Panthers’ 76-35 victory in which the forward surpassed women’s basketball icon Lisa Leslie on the CIF Southern Section scoring list for fourth all-time.
While the accomplishment came with much fanfare, Miller wasn’t done, as she later passed up another legend in Diana Taurasi (3, 047) and El Toro’s Guiliana Mendiola (3, 069) in capping her career with 3, 331 career points.
Miller only trails perhaps the greatest women’s basketball player of all time in Cheryl Miller (3, 446) in finishing second in the Southern Section, fifth in state and 29th nationally.
Overall, Michelle Miller averaged an area-best 32.5 points per game and individually outscored 14 of her team’s opponents, including tallying a season-high 52 points against Flintridge Prep on Jan. 20 in an 80-27 victory.
The Princeton-bound Miller led the Panthers to a fourth straight Prep League championship, a Poly Tournament championship, a 22-5 record and advancement to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA playoffs.
She also swam her way to the CIF swimming finals in multiple events, but it was on the hardwood that she truly left a lasting legacy.
2) Muir forfeits 20 games and a playoff berth while head coach Gamal Smalley is placed on administrative leave before resigning.
The highlights and low points for the Mustangs circled around two important games versus city archrival Pasadena High.
Maybe there was no bigger moment in recent Mustangs hoops history than when Muir defeated Pasadena on the road, 64-60, on Jan. 22.
The victory vaulted Muir into first place alone atop the Pacific League standings as the Mustangs broke a 14-game losing streak to the Bulldogs that extended back to 2004.
Muir eventually won its next six games in building a 24-1 record heading into the season finale against Pasadena on Feb. 9.
In that contest, though, the Mustangs were absent a key player and a downtrodden bunch was beaten up by Pasadena, 71-53.
The loss foreshadowed impending doom as the program was forced to forfeit 20 games three days later due to the use of an ineligible player.
The forfeits were announced hours before the CIF Southern Section office released its playoffs brackets, which did not include Muir.
A little more than a week after the forfeitures came news that Muir Coach Gamal Smalley was placed on administrative leave on Feb. 22. Smalley eventually resigned two weeks later and was part of an exodus that included principal Sheryl Orange and assistant principal Charles Park.
3) Pasadena boys’ basketball wins Division III-AAA title
It was a return to prominence for the Bulldogs, who took down Arroyo Grande, 50-35, at the Anaheim Convention Center on March 3 for the program’s fifth championship in 11 tries and first since 2007.
Pasadena hardly seemed a championship contender early on, opening the season with a 3-5 mark, while losing Pacific League contests to Muir and Crescenta Valley.
Yet, the Bulldogs recovered, and thanks to forfeitures by Muir, clinched their 10th straight Pacific League title.
In the postseason, Pasadena blitzed Magnolia (64-26), Beaumont (68-40), Bonita (65-50), Beverly Hills (81-67) and finally Arroyo Grande.
The Bulldogs (28-7) advanced three rounds in the CIF State Division III tournament before falling to St. John Bosco, 53-51.
Pasadena was led by its three-headed punch of forwards Blake Hamilton (17 points and 10.5 rebounds per game) and Brandon Jolley (19 points and nine rebounds per game) and guard Ajon Efferson (15 points and six assists per game).
4) Westridge School’s Erica Wu participates in Olympics in table tennis
The 16-year-old sophomore reached the height of success in qualifying out of the North American Table Tennis Trials in April to the summer Olympics in London.
For those unaware of the sport, Wu put on demonstrations, even holding one on her high school campus on May 3.
Unfortunately for Wu, her Olympic experience from a competition perspective was short as she and her teammates fell to Japan, 3-0, in the first round on Aug. 3.
Wu teamed up 16-year-old Ariel Hsing of Northern California and the pair were defeated by Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa and Ai Fukuhara 11-7, 11-7, 11-1 in their doubles match.
“It was so amazing to be a part of this, not just the tournament, but the Olympics overall,” Wu said from London after her defeat. “To check into the Olympic Village and to be a part of the opening ceremonies, when they said USA was next, we surged out of that tunnel and there were so many athletes. It was amazing.”
5) Caltech hit with sanctions
Maybe no scandal has ever seemed so out of place as the one that hit the Division III university on July 16.
On that day, Caltech was put on three years probation by the NCAA, was ordered to vacate wins in multiple sports, was told it couldn’t recruit for a year, was slapped $5,000 in fines and was ineligible in almost all sports for the postseason.
This came after the Beavers self-reported violations that took place between 2007 and 2011 and involved 30 student-athletes who took advantage of a unique institutional policy.
Through the first three weeks, students are presumed to be full-time while they shop for classes. However, some who participated in athletics during that window were technically ineligible if they did not have a full-time class workload.
There was a silver lining for the Beavers, though, as the Beavers men’s basketball program’s 46-45 victory over Occidental on Feb. 22, 2011, which famously snapped the school’s 26-year, 310-game SCIAC losing streak, was not in jeopardy of being forfeited.
6) La Salle girls’ volleyball wins first-ever divisional championship
After being swept out of the Division II-AA championships the prior year, not even playing in a new, higher division could keep the Lancers from destiny.
La Salle returned to the divisional championship, this time facing El Dorado in the Division I-A final at Santiago Canyon College on Nov. 17 and this time dispatched of the Golden Hawks via a sweep, 25-16, 25-20, 29-27.
The title was for the first in three tries for La Salle, which has made back-to-back finals appearances in the two years since Lancers Coach Tiare Tuitama took over.
For the season, the Lancers finished with a 34-3 record and clinched a third straight undefeated Del Rey League championship all while bringing home several individual accolades.
Sophomore outside hitter Haley DeSales was named the All-Area Player of the Year after being selected as the Division I-A Player of the Year and as a league first-team selection.
La Salle’s banner season ended in the quarterfinals of the CIF State Division I playoffs on Nov. 20 as La Salle fell at Clovis West, 19-25, 25-23, 25-15, 18-25, 15-11.
7) Muir football hires John Hardy and successfully moves on from Ken Howard saga to win first Pacific League title in four years.
Over the last two seasons, perhaps no area football team has suffered through as much adversity and drama as Muir.
Muir attempted to turn the page on a tumultuous half a year by promoting defensive coordinator John Hardy to head coach March 7.
Hardy was selected over and replaced interim head coach Dave Mitchell, the reigning All-Area Coach of the Year, who took over in the fourth game of the 2011 season and led the Mustangs to a 6-4 mark from that point and advancement to the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division semifinals.
Mitchell seemed the favorite to take the head coaching gig after he replaced Ken Howard, who was placed on administrative leave due to a physical altercation on campus a day before the Mustangs were to play Arcadia on Sept. 30.
After the hire, Hardy immediately offered a position to Mitchell (one Mitchell took) in an attempt to dispel any potential hard feelings, while keeping continuity through the coaching change.
Hardy’s Mustangs struggled on the field early, though, going 0-3 through a brutal nonleague schedule against Upland, Rancho Cucamonga and Alemany.
The Mustangs recovered in winning the final seven Pacific League games of the season and clinched the program’s first league title since 2009.
Muir (8-4) eventually advanced to the second round of the Southeast Division playoffs.
8) Pasadena Poly boys’ water polo wins first-ever divisional championship
Despite all the gains the Pasadena Poly boys’ and girls’ water polo programs had made during the tenure of coach Ryan Katsuyama, there was still a glaring vacancy in the team’s trophy room.
The Panthers had yet to win a CIF Southern Section divisional championship.
Worse yet, Katsuyama and Co. had come off consecutive boys’ water polo title-game defeats in 2010 to La Serna (17-9) and 2011 to Bonita (5-2) and a girls’ championship shortcoming in 2012 to Warren (15-10).
However, hope was alive when the Prep League champion Panthers (26-2) opened the playoffs with wins over Pasadena (17-5) and Walnut (20-9) before bouncing La Serna (11-9), for the first time in three matches this season, in the semifinals.
The Panthers’ dreams seemed dashed, however, as top-seeded Glendale held a 9-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter of the championship final at Irvine’s William Woolett Aquatics Center in Irvine on Nov. 17.
Yet, Poly’s deliverance came via a 6-1 uber fourth-quarter rally that secured the program’s first-ever divisional championship title.
9) San Marino girls' tennis dominates regular season, Rio Hondo League finals and wins a Division II title, while senior Dorothy Tang advances to the individual finals.
In case there were any questions regarding the area dominance of the San Marino High girls’ tennis program, all doubts were put to rest in 2012.
The Titans (20-4) romped to Rio Hondo League team championship and then flexed their muscles at the league’s individual tournament in placing all three singles players and doubles teams into the semifinals and then winning and finishing runner-up in both competitions.
At the team Division II playoffs, San Marino rolled to wins over Ayala (14-4), Yorba Linda (17-1) and El Dorado (15-3) before running into a serious challenge with a tight 11-7 win over visiting Claremont in the divisional semifinals.
In the finals, San Marino Coach Melwin Pereira outcoached his counterpart, Arcadia’s Jerry Dohling, in leading the Titans to an easier-than-expected 14-4 championship win, which secured the Titans their 11th overall title in 14 tries.
San Marino then advanced to the second round of CIF USTA Regional Finals before falling to Division I champion Campbell Hall, 5-2.
As for individual play, Princeton-bound senior Dorothy Tang enjoyed one of the best area seasons in recent memory.
Tang won the Rio Hondo League individual title, a feat denied to her the previous season by teammate Sarah Gealer, and became the first area player to advance to the individual championships since 1999 when she defeated Tesoro’s Mayci Jones 6-2, 7-6 on Dec. 5 in semifinals.
With only an hour rest after topping Jones, Tang fell to Dana Hills’ Alyssa Smith 6-1, 6-2 in the championship final at the Racquet Club of Irvine.
10) South Pasadena’s Claire Kieffer-Wright wins a CIF State High Jump championship
In many ways, South Pasadena High sophomore Claire Kieffer-Wright was in her own world at the June 2 CIF State Track and Field championships at Clovis’ Buchanan High.
Kieffer-Wright became the first area champion in two years when she leaped to a personal-best height of 5 feet 10 inches, which clinched her a state title.
While all other competitors had long since retired, Kieffer-Wright twice attempted to hit 6-0 1/2, the United States Olympic Trials qualifying mark, before faltering.
Kieffer-Wright’s meteoric rise was impressive, given only a week earlier she needed three attempts to hit the state qualifying mark of 5-5 at the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet at Cerritos College on May 25.
Kieffer-Wright’s leap of 5-10 also fulfilled the early promise the dual-sport star showed back when she won the State Indoor Championships in Fresno on Jan. 21 with a mark of 5-9.
Also a team player, Kieffer-Wright was part of South Pasadena’s third-place 1,600-meter relay squad that helped secure the Tigers a CIF Southern Section Division III team championship, 62-60, over vaunted Mater Dei.
On May 4, the sophomore also broke the Rio Hondo League’s 28-year-old mark of 5-4 with a league-title jump of 5-5.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun