The Top 10 sports stories of 2012 as chosen by The Burbank Leader

Throughout the past year, the local community experienced its share of important, interesting and significant sports stories. Some of the stories enlightened us, some informed us and others just entertained us.

Although many of the stories deserve recognition, a select few stood out among the others.

Chosen by the Leader, here is a list of the top 10 stories of 2012.

1) Memorial Field project finally finished: After months of construction and the displacement of the three local high school football teams, the city finally unveiled the newly remolded venue in February in a grand-opening ceremony.

Construction of the facility on the Burroughs High campus lasted 14 months. As a result, the three Burbank-area football teams had to play all of their games on the road during the 2011 season. The project was originally scheduled to begin in April of 2009, but was delayed 21 months.

The $12.2-million facility that is home to the Bulldogs and Indians football teams, as well as Bellarmine-Jefferson, features a new athletic field with artificial turf, an all-weather track, new pole vault, long jump, high jump and throwing areas, as well as new bleachers, lighting, restrooms and concession stands.

This fall, all three football teams were able to play their first seasons at the renovated venue.

2) Lovett Jr., Providence boys’ basketball have banner seasons: Behind a remarkable freshman season from Marcus LoVett Jr., the Providence High boys’ basketball team made history during the 2011-12 season.

LoVett earned his share of awards, including being named CIF Southern Section Division V-A Player of the Year, Liberty League Player of the Year and 2012 All-Area Boys' Basketball Player of the Year.

But LoVett's accolades are not limited to Southern California. The sharp-shooting guard was named to the Freshman All-American Team. He also earned Division V All-State first-team honors by

He averaged 31.7 points a game, which was best in the nation among freshmen according to In addition, he poured in 1,035 points for the season — breaking the school record — and put up 35.8 points a game in the playoffs.

What might be the most remarkable aspect of LoVett's game was his consistency as a scorer throughout the season. He never scored fewer than 20 points in all of team's 32 games, tallying 30 or more points 17 times and hitting the 40-point mark six times — twice in the postseason. His season high was a 57-point performance in a tournament game against Santa Maria St. Joseph.

He also averaged nearly five rebounds and more than three assists and three steals a contest.

Behind LoVett, Providence (26-6) captured its first Liberty League championship in 12 years.

The Pioneers enjoyed a historic postseason run, advancing past the quarterfinals for the first time in school history. Unfortunately for Providence, its first-ever appearance in a CIF championship game ended with a 65-62 overtime loss to league foe Holy Martyrs.

Providence also advanced to state competition for the first time, losing to Mission Prep, 68-62, in the opening round of the Southern California Regionals of the CIF State Division Championships.

3) Bell-Jeff softball team returns to second straight CIF title game: No other team has been as successful at Bellarmine-Jefferson High over the last two years as the school's softball squad.

Over that span, the Guards have captured consecutive Santa Cruz League championships and made back-to-back appearances in the CIF Southern Section Division VII tile game.

Although Bell-Jeff fell in the 2012 title game to Pomona Catholic, 1-0 — it also lost to the same team in 2011, 7-6 — the Guards still put together a wildly successful season. In addition, the Guards could take comfort that they lost no seniors to graduation. On top of that, the team also fielded just two juniors last season.

Under first-year coach Florencio Galindo, the Guards (23-6-2) did put together the most successful season in school history in terms of victories. The team also captured its third straight Santa Cruz League championship and outscored its opponents, 56-0, in four playoff victories.

The Guards were attempting to win the third CIF title in the school's 68-year history. The Guards girls' basketball team captured championships in 1997 and 2009.

The team was paced by sophomore transfer pitcher Mia Acosta, who was at her best in the playoffs. The All-CIF Southern Section Division VII first-teamer and Santa Cruz League Player of the Year allowed just one run in the playoffs and none in league play, while posting a 13-3 overall record.

The team also received outstanding efforts from sophomore infielder Sofia Palacios (.593 average, 36 runs batted in, 18 extra-base hits) and sophomore outfielder Jaylen Watson (.452, 31 RBI, 33 runs scored).

4) Auproux enjoys individual accomplishments: Burroughs has team success: Junior singles tennis player Garrett Auproux put together a triumphant campaign with the Indians, as he was nearly unbeatable.

Along with winning his second straight Pacific League singles championship, he also advanced to the semifinals of the challenging CIF Southern Section Individual Tournament. In addition, he helped pace the Indians to the Division II playoff semifinals for the second consecutive year. He was also voted the All-Area Singles Player of the Year.

Moving on to the CIF Individual Tournament, Auproux enjoyed one of the most successful runs in history by an area player. Seeded fourth, Auproux — who fell in the round of 16 as a sophomore — advanced to the semifinals by defeating Tomas Aranguiz of Ayala, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.

In the final four, Auproux flirted with an upset before falling to top-seeded junior Gage Brymer of Irvine University, 7-5, 6-3, at the Seal Beach Tennis Center. Auproux ended the season with a 47-4 record and is 91-7 over the past two years.

In the team playoffs, the Indians (13-3) were defeated by eventual champion Palm Desert, 14-4, for the second straight year. They placed second in the Pacific League behind Arcadia.

5) Providence girls’ basketball squad makes history: Under coach Andrew Bencze, the Pioneers rolled to an undisputed Liberty League championship; the third in a row for the program. However, senior standout Catherine Saint injured an ankle in the final regular season game and missed much of the playoffs.

Undaunted, the No. 3 Pioneers (27-6) went on to the Division V-AA semifinals for the first time in program history, losing to No. 1 Villanova Prep, 48-35. Providence received an invitation to state play and defeated Rock Academy, 68-35, and Orangewood Academy, 44-34, to advance to the regional semifinals. In the game, Providence saw its season come to an end with a 64-28 loss to Mission Prep.

Leading the historic run was a trio of players: Saint, junior Bea Benedicto and freshman Katia Dabbaghian. All three earned All-CIF Southern Section accolades in Division V-AA, as Saint was a first-team selection and Benedicto and Dabbaghian were second-team picks.

Benedicto was also awarded by being named the Liberty League co-Player of the Year.

While Benedicto averaged 11.7 points and 5.6 rebounds a contest, Dabbaghian averaged 7.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.6 steals and three assists and Saint averaged 9.8 points and 2.9 steals.

6) Guards girls’ basketball team keeps rolling along: The Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls' basketball team put together another fine season under former coach Jaclyn Johnson, who stepped aside following the season to take a position at Santa Monica College.

Bell-Jeff was paced by a pair of four-year standouts: Rishonda Napier and Jasmine Smith.

Napier, a McDonald's All-American candidate, was named to the All-CIF Division IV-AA first team for the third time. In addition, Napier was named the Santa Cruz League Player of the Year and made her fourth All-Area team. Napier averaged 21.7 points a game to go along with nearly three assists and three steals. She was also named the Leader Female Athlete of the Year.

Smith, who earned first-team all-league and All-Area accolades, averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds a game.

Bell-Jeff (24-6) captured its fifth straight Santa Cruz League title. The No. 6 Guards advanced to the Division IV-AA semifinals where they fell to No. 7 Gardena Serra, 71-54. The team also won a game in the Division IV state playoffs against Los Angeles Baptist, 70-60, before falling to St. Bernard, 65-51.

It was the Guards' fifth straight appearance in the division semifinals, something no other team in city history has been able to accomplish.

7) Surprise run for Burbank girls’ basketball team: The big story from the winter 20011-12 season at Burbank High involved the Bulldogs’ girls' basketball team.

Under coach Bruce Breeden, the Bulldogs made history by advancing to the CIF Southern Section Division I-A semifinals for the first time. The squad also notched a first by qualifying for the state playoffs.

In the postseason, the Bulldogs defeated Fountain Valley, 60-41, Upland, 62-40, and Temecula Valley, 58-49, to advance to the semifinals. In the final four, Burbank fell to a talented Summit squad, 76-49. In the state tournament, the Bulldogs ran into a juggernaut in Mater Dei and lost, 77-35.

Burbank (19-14) was paced by senior Damarie Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who earned All-CIF Southern Section, All-Area and All-Pacific League first-team honors, scored 12.2 points a game, averaged 4.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.4 steals.

8) Burroughs has league, CIF success in boys’ volleyball: After winning the Pacific League championship outright and advancing to the CIF Southern Section Division III championship match in 2011, the Burroughs High boys' volleyball team had high expectations for the 2012 campaign.

The Indians fell a bit short of their goals, as they were eliminated in the semifinal round of the playoffs last season and lost the final match of the regular season, forcing the team to share the Pacific League crown with Claremont. It was the second time in three years the Indians shared the league title with the Wolfpack.

Despite sharing the championship, Burroughs (21-5, 11-1 in league) had a successful season and was well represented in the all-league voting with seven players earning accolades.

Leading the way was senior middle Robby Rutecki. Rutecki shared player-of-the-year honors with Claremont's Stephen Zetterberg. Rutecki also earned All-CIF accolades. It was the third consecutive season in which Burroughs players shared the league's top honor.

9) Fine playoff run for Burbank softball team: The Burbank High softball squad stayed in the hunt for a Pacific League championship late in the season and enjoyed a fine ride in the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs.

Under coach Nicole Drabecki, Burbank (23-7) rolled to the quarterfinals for the first time in two decades, despite getting the No. 3 seed from the Pacific League after tying for second place.

In the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs, the Bulldogs defeated La Reina, 1-0, in the first round before earning a 1-0 win against Downey in the second round. Burbank fell in the quarterfinals, however, to Bishop Amat, 10-4.

The team received a fine effort from freshman pitcher Caitlyn Brooks, who earned first-team All-CIF, All-Area and all-league accolades. Brooks made an instant impact with the Bulldogs, notching a 16-5 record and a 1.95 earned-run average to go along with 180 strikeouts in 147 innings. She was just as impressive at the plate, with a .429 average, 23 RBI and 22 runs.

10) Injury sidelines Sanchez for entire season: As he continued to languish on the disabled list from the start of the 2012 season while trying to return from right shoulder surgery and a subsequent back ailment, the prognosis became increasingly dim for San Francisco Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez' 11th Major League Baseball campaign ever getting started.

Any remaining hope of seeing Sanchez on the field last season was snuffed out for good when the former Burbank High and Glendale Community College standout underwent season-ending back surgery in July.

Sanchez underwent a procedure to remove part of a disc from his back.

It was the latest setback for Sanchez, and it might have spelled the end of his career with the Giants, which included a World Series championship in 2010.

Sanchez was in his final season under contract with the Giants, who signed him to a one-year, $6 million extension in April, 2011.

Even without Sanchez, San Francisco won the 2012 World Series.

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