Jan 5, 2012, 12:12 PM EDT
Blurbs were written by various members of the Level staff…
25. Sixers Crush Warriors 107-79, Dec. 31
The Sixers didn’t get to do too much balling in late 2011, but still managed to fit in a couple convincing road wins, the better of which was this New Year’s Eve blowout victory of the 2-1 Warriors in Oakland. Spencer Hawes had his third double-double (14-12) of the year, Andre Iguodala flirted with a triple double (14-8-7), and the entire team shot the lights out from deep, hitting 11-20 from three to send the Sixers into the New Year on a high note.
24. Villanova Beats #3-Ranked Syracuse, Jan. 22
Beating a top three team in the nation isn’t going to go by without at least some mention. Unfortunately, this one comes as somewhat bittersweet for the ‘Cats given their record both before and after the Syracuse game (16-2 since the start of the 2010-11 season and just 11-17 since). Still, you beat the No. 3 Orange at the Carrier Dome, and you get on the list.
23. Phillies Beat Mets 10-0 Amidst Cliff Lee’s Scoreless Streak, Aug. 22
Any time the Phillies can blank the Mets 10-0 is a cause for celebration, but this win was extra fun for the Sixers thanks to who was on the mound: Cliff Lee, who gave up just three hits in seven scoreless innings, moving him to 4-0 with an 0.58 ERA for the month of August. The outing ended up being part of a scoreless streak of 30 2/3 innings—the second such streak of 30+ innings in what was another historic, unforgettable season for Clifton Phifer.
22. St. Joseph’s Beats #17 Creighton, Dec. 10, Villanova, Dec. 17
It’s been a rough few years for the St. Joseph’s program, with rumors (be they substantiated or otherwise) concerning the future of head basketball coach Phil Martelli gaining increased traction with each passing season. But 2011 has been different for the Hawks, and their mini-run toward the end of the last season and into the A10 tournament certainly gave cause for optimism. This season, the team is contending not just for the top spot in their city, but also their conference. Their December victory over No. 17/19 Creighton was no doubt the program’s signature win in multiple seasons, helping to revive school spirit within a student body who stormed the floor after the game. That Holy War slaughter of Villanova wasn’t bad either.
21. Eagles Rush Jets Early in Philly, Dec. 18
The Birds beat the crap out of the Jets, winning by a final of 45-19, to keep their slimmest of playoff hopes alive. This was the game Shady McCoy went touchdown crazy to shatter the Eagles’ single-season franchise record. There was also the second Juqua Parker defensive touchdown of the year as well. Those are always fun. You know what else is fun? Fans dressed up as feet to mock Rex Ryan.
20. Sixers Blow Out Hawks 117-83, Feb. 8
After a slow start to the season, the Sixers started rolling in January, and in February announced their arrival to the 33-18 Hawks with a laugher victory in Atlanta. Unfortunately, despite the game’s many highlights—six players in double figures, another near-triple-double for Iguodala—the game is best-remembered for ‘Dre’s blown dunk in the open court. Even that was kinda funny, though.
19. Flyers Beat Penguins 5-2, Mar. 28
This win marked just about the last moment of hope that the Flyers could turn around a terrible 2011 second half of the regular season. The team won only two of their final eight games, limping into the playoffs and slipping out of the top seed in the process.
18. Union rout Toronto FC 6-2, May 28
Who says there’s no scoring in soccer? The Union, a team that struggled to score goals over the first two month of the season (they scored more than one goal in a game just once over their first nine matches), exploded for six in a win at Toronto. Justin Mapp and Danny Mwanga each scored two goals, as the Union set a franchise record for goals in a game—in fact, the six goal outburst doubled their previous single-game goal scoring total.
17. Phillies Walk Off Against Pirates, Jul. 31
You might not remember the circumstances of the Phils’ 6-5 extra-inning victory over the Pirates, thanks to a Raul Ibanez double in the bottom of the tenth. But you probably remember the quote from after the game, spouted by the new guy who had just scored the winning run: “Good game, let’s go eat.” Hunter Pence’s soundbyte became an unlikely catchphrase for the Fightins, spawning viral videos and even a couple t-shirts before all was said and done.
16. Flyers Win Season Opener Against Bruins 2-1, Oct. 6
The season opener took place in Boston, pitting a substantially rebuilt Flyers team against the club that essentially detonated them. No one was sure quite what the Flyers would be this season, and in some ways, we’re still not. But on night 1, they passed the test with flying colors. Bryzgalov stopped all but one shot, and was one better than his counterpart.
15. Temple Wins First Bowl Game in Forever Against Wyoming, Dec. 17
The program on the rise finally broke through for its first bowl win since 1979, defeating the Wyoming Cowboys in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. While the Owls may have found their quarterback of the future (Chris Coyer) they may have also lost the running back who helped to reignite the program. Time will tell whether Bernard Pierce enters the draft this coming spring and how Temple will respond to his eventual absence, be it in 2012 or 2013. But for now, celebrate. Temple won a bowl game!
14. Phillies Come Back Against Astros on Opening Day, Apr. 1
The Phils went a franchise-best 102-60 in 2011, and it all started with their come-from-behind victory against the Astros in their season opener. John Mayberry was the unlikely hero—though not for the last time in ’11—as he capped a three-run ninth-inning rally with a walk-off single to score Ben Francisco. Who’s to say how different the regular season might have been had they dropped that one?
13. Sixers Edge Out 77-71 Victory Against Spurs, Feb. 11
It wasn’t pretty, but just three days after their victory over the Hawks, the Sixers one-upped their blowout victory with a grind-out win at home against the NBA-best Spurs, handing them just their ninth loss of the season. Jrue Holiday scored a team-high 27, Elton Brand grabbed 17 rebounds, and the team defense held San Antonio’s star back court of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to just 17 points on 5-20 shooting to secure the Ballers’ biggest win of the regular season.
12. Flyers Beat Old Cup Foes Blackhawks 4-1, Jan. 23
The Flyers had the NHL points lead after a brilliant defeat of the team that beat them in the previous Stanley Cup Finals. Jeff Carter scored two goals, Claude Giroux racked four assists, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves on the way to the 4-1 victory. It was their ninth of ten January wins, versus only two losses in the month.
11. Flyers Snap Year-End Losing Streak with Win Over Penguins, Dec. 29
In the wake of their losses to the Bruins, Rangers, and Lightning, the Flyers finished 2011 with a decisive 4-2 victory over the rival Pens in a great game, making them unbeaten in the new CONSOL Energy Center. Jagr saluting fans flipping him off pretty much summed this one up.
10. Phillies Beat Cardinals 9-2 to Clinch NL East, Sept. 17
It wasn’t the most suspenseful of division clinchers—Raul’s grand slam ensured the Phils’ victory in the eighth, and there were still a couple weeks left in the season—but that didn’t make it any less of a party at CBP when the Phils beat the Cards 9-2 to lock up the NL East. We assumed the team would cruise to the franchise record of 102 wins from there—naturally, they lost their next eight games, meaning they needed all of the last four to get there. But…
9. Phillies Eliminate Braves from Post-Season With Season-Ending Win, Sept. 28
Fine, so we allowed the team that eventually beat us in the playoffs and win the World Series to backdoor their way into the post-season with our sweep of the Wild Card-leading Braves in the season’s final games. That doesn’t make the memory of us playing God with a division rival—even with Justin de Fratus pitching the 12th—any less sweet. The fact that it also got the Phils the franchise record for wins (102) and gave Charlie Manuel the record for wins as a Phillies manager (646) made the whole thing a no-brainer.
8. Vince Young Leads Game-Winning Drive Against Giants, Nov. 20
Vince Young’s performance as the second-string quarterback for the 2011 Eagles will be best-remembered for his ill-advised pre-season decision to label the squad a “Dream Team,” but he repented nicely in the form of his fourth-quarter drive against the Giants in NY, leading the Eagles 80 yards in nine minutes before connecting with Riley Cooper for the go-ahead TD. The Eagles won 17-10, gaining some nice momentum before getting blown out by the Patriots and losing any chance of redeeming their awful season.
7. Phillies Beat Cardinals in Game One, Oct. 1
A three-run homer from Lance Berkman of Roy Halladay in the first threatened to end this one before it even really began, but unlike some later games in this series, the offense eventually came around for the Phillies, with Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez connecting on a pair of game-breaking homers off Kyle Lohse in the sixth to put the Phils up 6-3. Doc was predictably golden from there, and the Fightins took an easier-than-expected 1-0 lead in the series.
6. Eagles Blow Out Cowboys at Home, Oct. 30
As far as awesome Philadelphia wins go, beating the living crap out of the Cowboys is about as enjoyable as they come. That’s exactly what the Birds did back in October when they destroyed Dallas 34-7 at the Linc. Sadly, it took this Eagles team until the seventh game of the season before finally putting it all together (and it didn’t exactly last after that). Mike Vick was in video game mode against the Cowboys, completing 75% of his passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns, plus another 50 on the ground, and LeSean McCoy had one of his biggest games of the season. Shady was a horse, carrying the ball 30 times for 185. Hey, at least we beat the crap out of Dallas in 2011.
5. Flyers Crush Sabres in Game 7 of First-Round Series, Apr. 26
There’s not much like a game 7 in the NHL playoffs. By then, total strangers would hate each other, and there is no such thing as a total stranger in the NHL. By the end of the Flyers-Sabres opening round series, war had been waged, with low blows on and off the ice. The Flyers came out on top in a huge way in what we’ll remember as the Head Games win, which saw Ryan Miller dispatched and clowned on by Danny Briere and Dan Carcillo. Of course, this was also the last win of the Flyers’ run, so…
4. Sixers Take Game Four Against Heat 86-82, Apr. 24
It was the only game we ended up taking in our first-round series against the Heat, but that was still one more than a lot of people were expecting. And what a way to win—looking for all the world like it was gonna be the third game of the series where we pulled out to an early lead, fought hard the whole way but came up short in the final minute, until Lou Williams somehow connected with a pull-up three in the final minute, Elton got a piece of the shot at the other end, and Evan Turner hit a couple free throws to put the game out of reach. The Heat may have the whole next decade of basketball to themselves, but that glorious Sunday afternoon was all ours.
3. Phillies Beat Cardinals in Game Three, Oct. 4
If things had gone just a little differently in the days that followed, Ben Francisco could have found himself a Matt Stairs-level folk hero in the City of Brotherly Love. As is, we’ll still be forever grateful for that three-run pinch-hit bomb he hit off Jamie Garcia in the seventh inning of a previously scoreless Game Three against the Cards, a bomb that none of us saw coming and which instantly erased his otherwise incredibly disappointing 2011 season (.244, just six homers) from public memory. If we ever see you in a local bar, Benny, the well shots are on us—but if you want something really expensive or complicated to order, that’s probably gonna be on you.
1. Phillies Beat Reds in 19 Innings, May 25
In a year with no truly iconic playoff victories, the most memorable win came in what was essentially a throwaway regular-season game against the mediocre Cincinnati Reds. After locking at 4-4 in the 7th, the lack of offense quickly grew dispiriting, but as it got the 15th, 16th, 17th inning, the whole thing somehow started getting awesome. Before you knew it, Philly fans were serenading Cincy relievers hockey-style chants (“CAR-LOS! CAR-LOS!”), Chooch was playing third base for some reason, and yes—none other than backup utility infielder Wilson Valdez was pitching the 19th for the Fightins. The fact that we somehow won this ridiculous, laughable masquerade of a baseball contest was the ultimate statement about how stupidly good the Phillies 2011 regular season was, especially on the mound—even our bum hitters turned into Sandy Koufax when their feet hit the rubber. It was surreal, it was beautiful, it was absolutely stupefying—and it was, without a doubt, the game we’ll look back at the most fondly from the 2011 calendar year.
Look out for worst losses of 2011 on Friday…
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