CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - 2020 was a year unlike any other and it was the same for the sports world in the Lowcountry. Thursday begins our 2 day look back at the 10 biggest sports stories in the area for the year.
10. Another coaching change for the Stingrays
Back in July, Steve Bergin stepped down as the Stingrays head coach after just 1 season to take a job as an assistant coach in the college ranks. In his only season as the head coach, Bergin led the team to the best record in the league and was named the ECHL Coach of the Year. A week after his departure, Bergin’s assistant, Ryan Blair, was named the new Stingrays head coach.
9. A trio of state champions
Three teams from the Lowcountry were able to win state championships in 2020. Back in March, the North Charleston girls basketball team won their first title since 1984 beating Christ Church in the 2-A state finals. That same weekend, the Goose Creek girls won their 3rd state title in 4 seasons beating Clover in the 5-A state title match. Then in November, Wando would win the 5-A state volleyball championship in an epic 5-set match over TL Hanna.
8. Battery return to play
By July we had gone almost 5 full months without any sports being played in the Lowcountry. That changed when the Battery returned to the field to play their first game at their new home on Patriots Point. It had been 134 days for Charleston since their opener to that night which ended up being a 2-1 loss to Birmingham FC.
7. Pro sports resumes in South Carolina
Professional sports were all shut down once the pandemic ramped up in March. One of the first places they returned was in South Carolina. In May, NASCAR was back in action after 2 months when they waived the green flag at Darlington. Over the course of a week, the Cup Series held two races with Kevin Harvick taking the win on May 17th and Denny Hamlin winning 3 nights later. The PGA also made our state one of their 1st stops upon restarting the season. Webb Simpson took the victory at the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head in the 2nd event to be held by the tour.
6. Aaron Nesmith drafted by Boston Celtics
Porter-Gaud alum Aaron Nesmith was selected with the 14th overall pick of the NBA Draft in November by the Boston Celtics. After 2 seasons at Vanderbilt, Nesmith declared for the draft earlier in the summer forgoing his final 2 years of eligibility. During his high school career, Nesmith helped lead the Cyclones to 3 3-A SCISA state championships.
5. Kinlaw drafted by 49ers, Simpson picked by Raiders
Two Lowcountry natives were selected in the NFL Draft back in April. Goose Creek alum and former Gamecocks defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw went with the 14th overall pick to the San Francisco 49ers. Two days later, Simpson, a Fort Dorchester and Clemson alum, was taken in the 5th round by the Las Vegas Raiders.
4. Clemson football in 2020
The year began with Clemson earning the right to play for another national championship. But the Tigers hope for a title were dashed in New Orleans as they couldn’t keep up with Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow and LSU. The Tigers bounced back in the 2020 season despite losing a regular season game in overtime at Notre Dame. Clemson would return the favor to the Irish in the ACC Championship game and earn a spot back in the College Football playoff.
3. Sports in the Lowcountry canceled
When the pandemic hit hard back in March, sports all over the world came to a halt and the Lowcountry was no exception. Among the events canceled during the year were the RiverDogs entire season, the Stingrays playoff run, all Spring high school sports, the Volvo Car Open and the Cooper River Bridge Run. All hope to resume in 2021.
2. Will Muschamp fired at South Carolina
Midway through his 5th season in Columbia, Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp was fired in November. The coach had gone 28-30 during his time with South Carolina including 2-5 during 2020. The school still owes Muschamp at least $13 million in buyout money. Two weeks later, the school hired Oklahoma assistant Shane Beamer to serve as the next head coach.
1. Clemson-South Carolina football canceled
Like so many other events in the state, COVID-19 forced the cancelation of the biggest football game in the state in 2020. Clemson and South Carolina were unable to renew their rivalry for the first time since 1908. The Tigers will try to make it 6 in a row over the Gamecocks in 2021.