PORTLAND, Ore. – This year was an exciting time for sports teams in Oregon. Whether it was on the field or off, there was always something to talk about in 2017.
Here are a look this year's top 10 sports stories, as determined by KGW editors.
Dec. 2 was a day the Clackamas community had long been waiting for: The day the Cavaliers finally won the football state championship. And it couldn't have come in a more dramatic fashion.
Clackamas trailed the entire game but it led to a moment kicker Jeffrey Nelson will never forget. He booted a 37-yard field goal with three seconds left to lift the Cavaliers to a 31-30 win over South Medford. The Cavaliers finished the season with a perfect 14-0 record.
Watch: Game-winning field goal
This was the most-read sports story on KGW.com this year. A 25-year relationship between the Portland Trail Blazers and KGW ended following the 2017 NBA playoffs. The Blazers' newest TV contract, which was signed in the summer of 2016, designates NBC Sports Northwest as the “exclusive media partner” of the team beginning in the 2017-18 season.
KGW anchor Joe Donlon wrote the following on a Facebook post that hit home for a lot of Blazers fans:
“But it's definitely a sad day for us at KGW. We have had an amazing relationship with Rip City, and it's one we will all remember fondly," he wrote.
Saying goodbye is never easy. But it's a reality. And as hard as it is for all of us at KGW-TV, tonight we say goodbye...
The revelation rocked the Oregon State baseball team as it completed its incredible regular season (which we'll get to later) and prepared for the College World Series.
Shortly before the team's Super Regional matchup against Vanderbilt, The Oregonian reported the Beavers left-hander, who was the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, pleaded guilty to sexually molesting a female family member when he was 15. After the story was published, Heimlich asked to be excused from the team and decided not to travel with the team to the College World Series. However, he said he planned on returning to Corvallis for his senior season in 2018 after he went undrafted, despite his 11-1 record and 0.76 ERA.
Beyond the Beavers, the story put a spotlight on admission standards for universities, specifically student-athletes. And as KGW's Joe Donlon points out, the story put a focus on the state's procedural error by that led to The Oregonian's report.
If I had to bet, we have seen the last of Luke Heimlich – this season. The question is, have we seen the last of Luke...
For much of the season, it didn't look like the Thorns were a legitimate championship contender. But after early season injuries and struggles, the Thorns got red hot at the right time.
They finished the season with 11 wins in their last 13 matches. And their hot play continued into the postseason with a dominating 4-1 victory in the semifinals and a gutty 1-0 victory over the North Carolina Courage to win the National Women's Soccer League championship. Head coach Mark Parsons commented after the championship match that it was “maybe the most beautiful ugly game I've ever been a part of.”
The championship was the second for the Thorns in five seasons since the inception of the NWSL. That ties FC Kansas City for the most among NWSL franchises.
HIGHLIGHTS: Thorns beat Courage 1-0 to win NWSL title
It may not have ended with a national championship but the regular season Oregon State put together last spring will go down as one of the greatest ever in college baseball.
The Beavers were 54-4 entering the College World Series. They were the consensus No. 1 team in the country and had produced winning streaks of 23 and 21 games, the two longest by any team that season. The Beavers had the fewest losses of any team entering the College World Series since 1982. And after two wins in Omaha to kick off the College World Series, Oregon State appeared destined to win their third title in program history.
But unfortunately for the Beavers, their bats went dead as they scored two combined runs in back-to-back losses against LSU to be eliminated.
March was an exciting time for all Oregon basketball fans. For the first time ever, both the Beavers and Ducks women's basketball teams reached the Sweet 16 in the same season. Following a season in which they went to the Final Four, the Beavers returned to the Sweet 16 but were ultimately eliminated by Florida State.
Watch: 1-on-1 with Sydney Weise
However, the young, upstart Ducks were the talk of the tournament with three upset victories over Temple, Duke and Maryland. Their Cinderella run ended when they faced UCONN, who was on a 110-game winning streak coming into the game.
Photos: Ducks upset Maryland in Sweet 16
Photos: Ducks take down Maryland in Sweet 16
And while 2017 was the first time it happened, it looks like both teams could make a return to the Sweet 16 in 2018. The Ducks and Beavers are both ranked in the Top 25.
It was the story that never developed, but were some of the most-read on KGW.com. Would the Blazers add an All-Star to play alongside Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic?
First it was Paul George. While there wasn't a lot of hype before George was ultimately traded to Oklahoma City, it was revealed the Blazers were aggressive in trying to acquire All-Star forward. That led to the months-long tease that was Carmelo Anthony. His fit in Portland was questioned but the Blazers were open about their desire to have Anthony join Rip City. Shortly before training camp, it appeared the Blazers were destined to land Anthony to only, once again, lose out to the Thunder.
The Carmelo Anthony to Portland trade rumors just won't quit! What do you think? We'll battle your best answers on Sports Sunday at 11:35 p.m. on KGW.
While the Blazers again missed out on attracting All-Star players, they may be better off for it in this case. The Thunder have struggled this season while George and Anthony's former teams have exceeded preseason expectations.
3.) Nurk Fever
It was the story nobody saw coming. Except for maybe Blazers general manager Neil Olshey.
As spring brought its usual energy to the Rose City, Portlanders got an unexpected jolt from an unlikely source. The addition of center Jusuf Nurkic flew under the radar when it happened. It was a trade for a young player fans didn't know and the Blazers appeared poised to limp to the end of the regular season and miss the playoffs. But Nurk Fever rejuvenated a melancholy and sour Blazers fan base. Although his skill propelled the Blazers to a 14-6 finish to the season that lifted them to the playoffs, fans fell in love with the physicality and confidence of the Bosnian Beast. If a mayoral election was held in Portland in March, Nurkic would have won in a landslide.
Watch: Expectations for Nurkic
After a summer of immense expectations, Nurk Fever has subsided so far in the early part of this season, but who's to say it won't make a return next spring.
2.) Exodus of coaches
It was a crazy fall for coaches. Gary Andersen, Caleb Porter and Willie Taggart all left their respective teams within two months of each other.
First was Andersen, who parted ways with OSU in October as the Beavers struggled to compete in his third season as coach. Then in November came the shocking news that Caleb Porter was leaving the Timbers after winning the MLS Cup in 2015 and leading the Timbers to first place in the Western Conference in 2017. While those changes were sudden, Ducks fans had to wait days to learn Taggart was moving on to Florida State after just one season in Eugene.
Photos: Caleb Porter through the years as coach of the Timbers
So in 2018 we'll see three new faces roaming the sidelines for Oregon's teams. Jonathan Smith, a former quarterback who led the Beavers to a Fiesta Bowl win in 2001, takes over at his alma mater. The Ducks promoted offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal to head coach and the Timbers named Giovanni Savarese as their new manager.
It was a moment 78 years in the making and one Ducks fans will never forget: the run to the Final Four. Oregon hadn't reached the pinnacle of college basketball since 1939, when the “Tall Firs” won the first NCAA championship.
Even without Chris Boucher, the Ducks, led by veterans Jordan Bell, Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey and Dylan Ennis, shocked the nation with a 74-60 win over tournament-favorite Kansas in the Elite Eight. And who knows what may have been if Oregon could have come up with a defensive rebound as eventual champions North Carolina missed free throws in the final seconds of a 77-76 win. While the ending may have been heartbreaking, the ride to the Final Four was as thrilling as sports can be.
And the 2016-17 Ducks will go down as one of the greatest teams in Oregon sports history.