In the year 2011, Carbon County has plenty happen with the local sports scene. From triumphs and accomplishments, to disappointments and tragedies, the year experienced plenty of ups and downs. Here's a look at five of the biggest stories (in no particular order) in 2011:
The Carbon High girls basketball team ran out to a record of 20-1 as they entered the championship game thanks to a 14-game winning streak. Their only loss in the season came on Dec. 17, 2010 losing 50-47 in overtime to Delta.
In the championship game, the Lady Dinos were matched up with their rivals, the Emery High Lady Spartans. The Emery High Lady Spartans rode a strong second half as they prevailed in the 3A girls basketball state championship game over Carbon 55-42.
Carbon's Tia Pappas fouled out of the game in the final minute finishing with 15 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Lady Dinos. Mariah Pollock added 10, Kirsten Jewkes chipped in five and Kylee Lessar, Miranda Averett and Sara Potts each scored four points.
Before walking out on the court, head coach Cami Carlson reminded her team in the locker room that no matter what the outcome of the game each player should realize where they are and what it took to reach this point.
"You are in an enviable position," Carlson quietly told the girls in the locker room prior to the game. "Very few athletes get to this point and many would kill for the chance to get here. No matter what happens out on the floor tonight, you are already winners. I will be proud of you no matter what happens."
Senior Sara Potts also struggled to get words out. "It was a heart breaker. Especially when we knew we could do it. I am proud of our whole team. We are really good and we had a great season. We can't forget that. Hopefully down the road Coach Carlson's words before the game will mean something more, but for now it just hurts."
Mariah Pollock, also a senior, echoed many of her other teammates sentiments. "It's all so hard.... I wish we could have pulled it out for our coach and team and fans."
She admitted that just making it to the tournament was a special treat and she had no regrets about the effort her and the team put out there.
"We tried to be strong and do what it would take to win. Our team is more like a family. We worked together as a team and we know how hard we worked. We wanted it so bad...... it just hurts," she concluded.
Carbon High senior Tia Pappas was named the class 3A Most Valuable Player for 2010-11 season. Pappas was also one of a select group senior basketball players to receive the McDonald's All-American Award. This honor covers girl high school basketball players across the United States.
Pappas was among 13 girls statewide to receive this award. She has been a member of the Lady Dinos varsity basketball team since she was a freshman.
Pappas had a stellar career at Carbon High capping it off by averaging 21.5 points and four steals in the final post season play. She has been a starter in state tournament play all four years.
Pappas averaged 20.5 points a game during her senior season in the regular season as well as pulling in 114 rebounds, dishing 68 assists and securing 113 steals.
Her career-high game came in the tournament against Cedar as she hit for 33 points that included a key three point shot to help send the game into overtime.
The honor dampened the sting of finishing second at the state tournament, but Pappas said she would trade the individual honor away in a heart beat for the team championship.
Pappas decided to continue playing basketball in college as she signed on to play basketball at Westminster College.
What looked to be just another football season for the Carbon High Dinos turned out to a season for the ages. The Dinos ran out to a 4-0 record, securing their best start to a season in six decades (1951).
Their perfect start to the season was capped off by a comeback 17-13 win against Union on the road. Down 13-10 late in the fourth quarter, the Dinos drove down the field and went ahead on a eight-yard touchdown by running back Daulton Nelson.
Head coach Jeff Blanc called the win against Union, "The sweetest victory."
Not only were the players caught up in the buzz of starting the season 4-0, the fans of Carbon High followed the team closely. Blanc noted the visitors stands at Union were completely filled by Carbon High fans, which hasn't always been the case when the Dinos play road games.
Unfortunately for the Dinos, the sizzling start to the season did not carry through to the end. Carbon lost their final five games, finishing the season with a 4-5 record and missing out on their first opportunity to have a winning season since they went 9-3 in 2000.
The 2011 season left the Carbon High football program with plenty of optimism heading into the 2012 season.
Brad Barton, the 31-year-old USU Eastern mens basketball head coach, was found dead in his apartment on Oct. 4, 2011.
The college and the local community were shocked at the loss of a man who touched the lives of many around him. Students and faculty gathered quietly in the ballroom at the Jennifer Leavitt Student Center to remember and honor Barton shortly after his death. Students embraced each other during the memorial as some had tears flowing down their cheeks and others laid their heads on the shoulders of friends.
"This gathering is a way for students and faculty to discuss our grief and help give support to one another during this difficult time," said USU Eastern Chancellor Joe Peterson.
Peterson said the campus was "shaken" after news spread across campus Tuesday of Barton's death.
Barton was named permanent head coach in June, having served as interim coach during the previous season. During his interim season, he helped guide the team to a record of 23-7, with three of those losses coming at the hands of the eventual national champion, College of Southern Idaho.
He had been head assistant coach at USU Eastern under Chris Craig, who left before the 2010-11 season.
Barton had also served as an assistant coach under Mike Ostlund at Snow College from 2006-07. He played high school basketball at Davis High and went to BYU-Hawaii for two years before he transferred to Weber State University. He led the Big Sky Conference in assist-to-turnover ratio both seasons at Weber State and he averaged 3.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in 60 career games with the Wildcats, according to stats from the Weberstatesports.com website.
"He was ecstatic about being named head coach," said Craig in a telephone interview Wednesday morning. "The job meant a lot to him and he knew what it meant to the community."
Craig, who has coached with and known Barton for six years, called Barton a "special, special unique person" who was always there for his players whenever they needed him. Many times, Craig said, Barton would be on campus and at the gym until the late hours of the night working one-on-one with the players.
"He purely coached to help the kids," Craig said. "He was a tough coach and made the players really work hard for everything. But whether he was an assistant or a head coach, he gave his life for those kids and really cared for all of them."
Outside of the court, Barton loved to spend time with the players and do activities in the outdoors. When the team traveled on long bus trips to places like Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Rangely, Colo., Craig said Barton would pass the time joking around with the players and reading books of all kinds.
"The guy was a genius," Craig explained. "He could have done whatever he wanted to in life."
The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) announced last week that it has placed sanctions on the team for using a player deemed ineligible - sanctions that will erase all wins in the 2010-11 season from the records and impose a ban on tournament play this season. The player in question is Max Zakharov, a 6-foot-6-inch sophomore from Russia.
An inquiry by the NJCAA found that Zakharov had played with professional players in a summer league in Europe before he arrived at USU Eastern to play for the late head coach Brad Barton, who passed away in October. The investigation turned up information, including a box score on a pay website of a professional game that Zakharov had participated in for just under two minutes of play.
According to Article V Section 11.A.8.c.v of the NJCAA Handbook and the rules governing the amateur status of student-athletes, it states "An individual loses amateur status and thus shall not be eligible for intercollegiate competition in a NJCAA certified sport if any of the following criteria applies: (v) Competes on any professional athletics team, or on a team where any member of the team is considered professional, even if no pay or remuneration for expenses was received."
This legislation was passed by the membership in March 2010 and implemented on Aug.1, 2010, according to Brian Beck, assistant executive director of compliance with the NJCAA.
While the NJCAA and National Collegiate Athletic Association have similar rules in regards to player eligibility, they differ on this particular rule. In the NCAA, a player is only considered a professional if they are paid money when playing with a professional team.
"The (eligibility) rule in the NJCAA is certainly more severe than the NCAA rule," said Paur, who has been the head coach of the women's team for the last 23 years and is also serving as an assistant on the men's team. To his knowledge, Paur said this is the first time this kind of issue has happened at USU Eastern. The ruling by the NJCAA is considered final, with no further appeals possible.
"The players were stunned when they heard the about the sanctions," Paur said.
The sanctions against the USU Eastern Mens basketball team include: No participation in the 2012 Scenic West Athletic Conference tournament, the team is not eligible to participate in the 2012 NJCAA National Basketball Tournament and wins from the 2010-11 season, from which Zakharov participated in, are now vacated.