Top 15 local sports stories of 2008

Cheraw's Cliff Matthews was part of the Gamecocks seven win season

WPDE Sports ran a three part series looking back on the top local sports stories of 2008.

15 Kristy McPherson nets over $400,000 on LPGA Tour

We begin at #15 where Conway's Kristy McPherson had a breakthrough year on the LPGA Tour. Playing in her second full season on tour, the former South Carolina Gamecock won over $400,000 in prize money to finish 47th on the money list. McPherson had the lead on the back 9 in the final round of the Northwest Arkansas Championship - she finished in a tie for 4th - her best career result on tour. In all, McPherson had 6 top 10's in 2008.

14 Myrtle Beach boys win 3A basketball title

At #14, the Myrtle Beach Seahawks stormed Columbia and captured the 3A boys basketball state championship. Thanks to 25 points from Jamere Valentine, Myrtle Beach routed Greenville 80-55 to capture the 3A crown. On the same day, the Myrtle Beach girls and the Hemingway boys fell short in their bid for state crowns, but the Christian Academy in Myrtle Beach, playing their first ever season of varsity basketball captured the 1A SCISA crown in Sumter.

13 Tom Glavine, Mike Hampton pitch for Pelicans

Coming in at #13, two major league legends spend some time in a Myrtle Beach Pelicans uniform. On July 5th, 2 time All-Star and former 20 game winner Mike Hampton pitched five shutout innings for the Birds in a rehab start against the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Then in August, a record crowd of 6,599 came to BB&T Coastal Field to see two time Cy Young award winner and 10 time all star Tom Glavine toe pitch in Myrtle Beach. Glavine threw three innings as local fans got to see a future hall of famer pitch for the Pelicans.

12 CCU opens 2008 season at Penn State, Chants go 6-6

Coastal Carolina's roller coaster 2008 season comes in as top sports story #12.

The Chanticleers made history by opening the campaign at Penn State - Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions gave CCU a reported $450,000 guarantee to come to Happy Valley. Zach MacDowall's TD pass to Trent Usher gave the Chanticleers a moment of excitement trailing 14-7 in the 2nd quarter, but Penn State pulled away for a convincing 66-10 win. The Chanticleers had off the field distractions with player dismissals and arrests and an up and down 2008 season - finishing 6-6.

11 Gamecocks win 7 games, reach Outback Bowl

The Gamecocks return to New Year's Day is top local sports story #11. South Carolina shuffled through three different quarterbacks in 2008, but a stingy defense gave the Gamecocks wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee on the way to seven wins. South Carolina was blown out by Florida and lost to archrival Clemson in Death Valley to end the regular season, but seven wins and a loyal fan base earned them a trip to Tampa and the Outback Bowl to face the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Gamecocks scored back to back Outback Bowl wins on New Year's Day in 2001 and 2002.

10 Kyle Busch wins at Darlington

Kyle Busch dominating the Lady in Black is our 10th top local sports story. Kyle Busch had 20 wins in 2008, 8 in Cup, 9 in Nationwide and 3 in the Crafstman Truck Series. He led 167 laps under the lights at Darlington Raceway and one week after wrecking Dale Earnhardt, Junior in Richmond, embraced the bad guy role in NASCAR taking a bow after winning at the Track Too tough to tame

9 Jordan Lyles 1st round "sandwich pick" by Astros

Hartsville's Jordan Lyles is top sports story #9. The three sports star was a WPDE Zoneman Finalist in 2007 and a WPDE All-Hoop Zone performer as well, but it was his prowess on the diamond that stood out. After choosing baseball as his top sport, Lyles committed to play for Ray Tanner and the Gamecocks, but was then selected #38 overall in the MLB amateur draft by the Houston Astros. Lyles had a signing bonus just under $1,000,000 and is in the Astros minor league system trying to work his way to the big leagues.

8 Pelicans win 89 games, host all star game, Rocket manager of the year, DC passes

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans 10th season on the Grand Strand is our 8th biggest story of the year.

The Birds won 89 games, the most in franchise history. The Pelicans fell short in the Mills Cup Championship Series, but had plenty of great memories including hosting the 2008 Carolian League/California League All-Star game. Rocket Wheeler was named minor league manger of the Year by Baseball America. The club suffered a great loss when longtime pitching coach Bruce Dal Canton left the team in the middle season. He passed away after a bout with cancer in October.

7 Haynesworth named to second straight Pro Bowl

Another Hartsville product makes the top 10. Albert Haynseworth's tremendous season comes in at #7. Haynesworth is regarded across the NFL as one of the best defensive players in the game. The Tennessee Titan has 8.5 sacks and 22 quarterback pressures this year, making him a Pro Bowler for the second straight season. Haynesworth suffered a knee injury in early December, but is expected to be ready for the Titans post-season run.

6 Amber Campbell competes in the Olympics

A Coastal Carolina Olympian is our 6th biggest local sports story. Amber Campbell was a five time All-American at CCU in the hammer throw. In 2004, she was literally inches away from making the US Olympic team, but after four years of hard work, Campbell represented the USA in Beijing. She finished 21st in the hammer throw qualifying, 1.5 meters short of reaching the Olympic Finals. Campbell plans to continue to train and try and make the 2012 London Olympics

5 CCU Baseball reaches Super Regionals

At #5, The CCU baseball team's trip to the Super Regionals. Gary Gilmore and the Chanticleers have been NCAA Tournament fixtures, but they have never made it out of the first round until 2008. The Chants earned a #1 seed and hosted East Carolina, Alabama and Columbia at Watson Stadium thanks to a makeover that included extra seating. CCU beat ECU 24-11 to reach the Super Regionals for the first time in the program's history. North Carolina defeated the Chanticleers in Cary, NC to reach the College World Series. Gary Gilmore turned down a job offer at Auburn to remain at Coastal Carolina.

#4 Four former Chants on NFL rosters

Four former Chants in the NFL is top story #4. In April, NFL Scouts came to Conway to see Jerome Simpson put on his pro day workout. The former Coastal Carolina wideout dazzled in combines and earned himself a 2nd round pick in the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Mike Tolbert went undrafted, but became the story of San Diego Chargers training camp. Not only did the former CCU fullback make the roster, but he's starting in the Chargers backfield with LaDanian Tomlinson - Tolbert's first career NFL TD came on Monday night football

Quinton Teal continues to be a key part of the Carolina Panthers special teams unit in his second season and Tyler Thigpen went from third string quarterback to NFL starter with the Kansas City Chiefs. Thigpen had his first career NFL win as a starter against the Oakland Raiders.

#3 Ex-CCU golfer Dustin Johnson wins PGA event

Dustin Johnson's million dollar day is top local sports story #3. The former CCU All-American's rookie season on the PGA Tour got off to a great start with three top 15 finishes early in the year, but Dustin headed to the fall in danger of losing his full time Tour card. That all changed in Verona, New York.

Johnson's 3 under 69 got him to 9 under for the tournament and a 1 shot win over Robert Allanby. Johnson won just under 1.8 million dollars in his rookie season.

#2 Tommy Bowden resigns, Dabo Swinney takes over as Clemson head coach

The end of the Tommy Bowden era is our 2nd biggest story of 2008. Clemson began the 2008 season with lofty expectations - a preseason top 10 ranking that quickly went away when Alabama dominated the Tigers in the opener at the Georgia Dome. Following a Thursday night loss to Wake Forest, Bowden resigned and Clemson gave young assistant Dabo Swinney the interim head coaching job with sites on luring in a big name. But Swinney brought excitement and enthusiasm to the program and guided Clemson to quality wins over Boston College and Virginia. Clemson's 31-14 win over South Carolina in Death Valley was Dabo's last chance to impress and it worked - The Tigers named Swinney as the permanent head coach.

#1 Dillon and MB win state football titles

And the #1 local sports story - Dillon and Myrtle Beach win state championships on the gridiron.

Clemson's Memorial Stadium was the site of two amazing performances.

Dillon leaned on its nasty Cats Defense and this 94 yard TD reception by Antwan Blue to shock Central of Pageland 7-6.

Dillon won its first state championship since 1947 - Jackie Hayes was overcome with emotion when the clock struck zero.

Hours later, it was Myrtle Beach's turn to make history. The Seahawks won their first state title since 1984 with a 31-21 triumph over Chester. Everett Golson threw three TD passes including two to Demazio Skelton - the Seahawks finished the dream season with a 14-1 campaign.