NASHVILLE, Tenn. - As we wrap up the final few days of 2017, we attempt to put a bow on the incredible year it was for sports in middle Tennessee as well.
On Thursday we unveiled my personal list of the top Tennessee sports plays of 2017.
Now we will look at the best performances of the year.
As always, these accomplishments are up for debate, but my list of top performances skewed towards efforts that led teams to victory and not just individual recognition. Extra credit given for performances that came in the postseason.
10. JACOREY RETURNS HOME
Middle Tennessee's quest to clinch an outright Conference USA title went down to a late February trip to UAB. Blue Raiders star JaCorey Williams grew up in Birmingham and made sure it was a memorable trip home. The Arkansas transfer scored X points, but even more importantly sunk the game-winning jump shot with just 4.4 seconds left in Middle's 66-64 win. Williams was later named Conference USA Player of the Year and helped the Blue Raiders to an upset over Minnesota in the NCAA Tournament.
9. MARIOTA'S MONDAY NIGHT MAGIC
Two weeks after suffering a hamstring injury that sidelined him for a game and a half, Quarterback Marcus Mariota returned to the Titans' lineup for a Monday Night Football showdown with the AFC South rival Colts. Clearly still limited by the injury, Mariota proved that he's more than just a mobile quarterback, sitting in the pocket and dissecting the Colts' secondary. The third-year QB completed 22-32 passes for 305 yards and the go-ahead touchdown to Taywan Taylor in a 36-22 victory, the Titans' first win over the Colts since 2011.
8. FREDDIE HOCKEY
Pressed into the lineup for game five of the Western Conference Final after top line center Ryan Johansen was shut down due to injury, minor leaguer Frederick Gaudreau made his presence felt in the Stanley Cup Final. The 23-year-old versatile centerman scored a team-high three goals, including the eventual game-winners in games three and four as the shorthanded Predators pushed the defending champions to six games.
7. FORSBERG SPARKS RALLY
After not allowing a goal while sweeping the first two games of their opening round series against the Blackhawks in Chicago, the Predators found themselves down 2-0 entering the third period of game three at home. But Forsberg almost single-handedly led Nashville back into the game with two goals to force overtime to set up Kevin Fiala's game-winner on the way to a four-game sweep of the Western Conference's top seed.
6. BYARD SAVES THE DAY
In a game in which the Titans offense struggled all day against the winless Browns, Byard's ballhawking play helped the defense salvage the day. The second-year safety intercepted three passes and the Titans didn't allow a touchdown all day, eventually winning 12-9 on a Ryan Succop field goal in overtime. Byard intercepted two more passes the next game against Baltimore giving him a franchise record five over a two week span. He's among the NFL leaders with six interceptions on the season.
5. HAYES LEADS RIVERDALE TO NO. 1 Guard Anastasia Hayes cemented her High School All-American status by scoring 33 points in Riverdale's Division I-AAA State Tournament final win over previously unbeaten Memphis Central. Hayes went 13-17 from the free throw line, most of which came in the closing seconds of a 66-59 win that gave the Lady Warriors a second straight State title. At 34-0 overall, Riverdale finished the year ranked as the no. 1 girls. basketball program in the country.
4. TOFFEY DELIVERS Vandy Boys star Will Toffey helped deliver the Commodore their fourth regional title in five years with a MVP performance at the Clemson Regional. Toffey matched a career-high with four hits and four runs scored including a three-run home run in a regional opening win over St. John's and followed that up with three more hits in a 9-4 win against host and nationally-ranked Clemson in the winner's bracket game. Toffey wrapped up a 9-19 weekend with his first career multi-home run game in a 4-0 win over the Tigers in the regional final.
3. IMPEKKABLE Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne was phenomenal throughout the team's first ever run to the Stanley Cup Final, but he was never better than he was in the team's first two games of the postseason when he pitched back to back shutouts over the high powered Blackhawks in Chicago. Rinne posted 59 saves between the two games and a save percentage around .960 for the series as the Preds swept the Central Division champion Hawks in four games.
2. EGGLESTON SPIKES THE COMPETITION Brentwood star volleyball player Logan Eggleston would not be denied a third straight state title. The junior All-American and recorded an incredible 47 kills and took over in a 15-1 decisive fifth set to lead Brentwood to a victory over Ravenwood in the state championship match in October. The 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year in Tennessee, Eggleston is a Texas recruit.
1. HATS OFF TO SISSONS The injury to Johansen forced young Colton Sissons to the top of the Predators' center depth chart late in the playoffs and he rose to the occasion. In game six of the Western Conference Final, Sissons, who was benched late in the regular season, recorded his first career hat trick, scoring three goals that proved to be the difference in the 6-3 win over the Ducks.
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