BEST OF 2021: Tim Duncan, UTSA football, Kiana Williams headline San Antonio’s Top 12 sports stories of the year


SAN ANTONIO – 2021 was a year San Antonio sports fans will never forget.

Teams and athletes across all levels of competition saw unprecedented success and took part in dozens of memorable moments in the Alamo City.

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In celebration of a remarkable 365 days, the KSAT 12 Sports team wants to take a moment to reflect on the 12 biggest sports headlines.

Let’s start in the boxing ring.

Joshua Franco raises his arm in victory after defeating Australia's Andrew Moloney in their trilogy match in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (ESPN)

Joshua Franco retains WBA Super Flyweight Title

On Aug 15, Joshua Franco faced Andrew Moloney for the third time. After their second fight ended with a controversial stoppage, “El Profesor” left no doubt in their third meeting. The San Antonio native dominated from start to finish and won the fight on all three judges’ scorecards 116-112 to retain his WBA World Super Flyweight title.

READ MORE: “El Profesor” wins Franco vs. Moloney Trilogy match

Goalkeeper Matt Cardone warming up prior to San Antonio FC's home match against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on May 1, 2021. (KSAT)

Matt Cardone becomes San Antonio FC’s all-time leader in matches played

Goalkeeper Matt Cardone has been a model of consistency in his time with San Antonio FC, and this year he became the club’s all-time leader in matches played. The MacArthur High School and Trinity alumnus was honored for reaching the 100-match milestone prior to their 3-2 victory over Real Monarchs SLC on Sept 1. Even though he missed their playoff run due to an injury suffered in their final regular season match, San Antonio FC still defeated San Diego Loyal and RGV Toros in the first and second rounds of the playoffs and advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, capping a landmark season with memories their fans will never forget.

READ MORE: Matt Cardone closing in on impressive milestone with San Antonio FC

Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon (left) and former player Manu Ginobili (right) were both nominated for the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021. (KSAT)

Manu Ginobili and Becky Hammon nominated for Hall of Fame

Two Spurs could be entering the Hall of Fame sooner rather than later. Spurs icon Manu Ginobili and current assistant coach Becky Hammon headlined the list of nominees for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022. Both enjoyed significant career changes as well. Ginobili joined the Spurs front office, while Hammon earned her first head coaching job with the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces -- formerly the San Antonio Silver Stars -- the same team that retired her No. 25 jersey in September.

READ MORE: Spurs ties to the Class of 2022

Cameron Ward celebrates a touchdown run in the second quarter of UIW's playoff victory over Stephen F. Austin at Benson Stadium on Nov. 27, 2021. (KSAT)

UIW earns first playoff win in Eric Morris’ final season

This was undoubtedly a great year for college football in the Alamo City. UIW was one of the beneficiaries and enjoyed the best season in program history. The Cardinals finished with a 9-2 overall record as undisputed Southland Conference champions and advanced to the FCS playoffs for the second time ever. In the opening round, UIW defeated Stephen F. Austin 35-28 in overtime at Benson Stadium for their first playoff victory. The Cardinals then bowed out in the second round, falling inches shy of overtime in a 49-42 loss to the top-seeded Sam Houston State Bearkats.

Following the conclusion of the season, head coach Eric Morris announced that he was leaving to become the offensive coordinator at Washington State. His legacy with the program is unmatched, having led the Cardinals to two conference titles and two playoff appearances in his four years at the helm. GJ Kinne will now lead UIW into 2022, as they prepare to move to the WAC.

READ MORE: Incarnate Word sinks Stephen F. Austin in OT to advance


Shiner football wins back-to-back Class 2A titles

After yet another undefeated regular season, the Shiner football team tore through the UIL Class 2A Division I playoffs. Through the first four rounds of competition, the Comanches averaged 65 points per game and thoroughly dominated Refugio in a highly-anticipated playoff rematch. Following a seven-point victory over Timpson in the State semifinals, Shiner crushed Hawley 47-12 to claim their second straight UIL State title. Doug and Dalton Brooks headlined a rushing attack that racked up 404 total rushing yards, a fitting end to their last high school game together.

READ MORE: Area high school football season ends at AT&T Stadium

Reagan senior Jasmine Montgomery (right) celebrates as she crosses the finish line at the end of the 100 meter dash at the UIL State Championships on Saturday, May 8, 2021. She and Clemens junior Saniya Friendly (left) finished first and second. (KSAT)

Jasmine Montgomery strikes gold twice at UIL State track meet

On Saturday, May 8, Reagan senior Jasmine Montgomery set the track on fire. At the UIL Class 6A State Track & Field Championships in Austin, the Oregon commit won both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes and nearly chased down the field on the anchor leg of Reagan’s state-runner up 4x100-meter relay. Her record-breaking performance helped power the Rattlers to a second place finish in the Class 6A team standings.

WATCH: UIL State Track & Field Championships Recap: Class 6A, 1A Saturday

The Cole boys basketball team poses with the Class 3A state championship trophy after defeating Tatum in the title game on March 12, 2021. (KSAT)

Cole boys win first basketball title since 1989

The Cole boys basketball team was one of many squads that missed out on a shot at a state title due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020. In 2021, they returned to the Alamodome and finished the job. Juniors Silas Livingston and Trey Blackmore capped a remarkable run through the playoffs with a 77-60 demolition of Tatum in the UIL Class 3A State title game, as the Cougars captured their first championship since Shaquille O’Neal led them to a title in 1989.

HIGHLIGHTS: Cole boys use third-quarter surge to defeat Tatum, win Class 3A State title

The LEE boys soccer team poses with the championship trophy after defeating Rockwall Heath in the UIL Class 6A State title match 2-0 at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown on Saturday, April 17, 2021. (KSAT)

LEE boys soccer earns redemption with breakthrough championship

Another team that took advantage of their second chance at glory was the LEE boys soccer team. After losing in the title match to penalty kicks in 2019 and seeing their playoffs cancelled entirely in 2020, the Vols stormed through their bracket and won both of their state tournament matches in 2021 by a 2-0 margin to claim the program’s first ever title. Senior captain Henry Bowland tallied a goal and an assist in LEE’s title-clinching victory over Rockwall Heath on April 17. The victory also marked LEE high school’s first state title of any kind in more than 50 years.

HIGHLIGHTS: LEE blanks Rockwall Heath to capture Class 6A title

Brandeis volleyball celebrates their UIL Class 6A State title at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland on Nov. 20, 2021. (KSAT)

Brandeis volleyball completes dramatic rally to win first state title

For the first time since 2003, a San Antonio team won a state volleyball title.

Brandeis earned that breakthrough moment for both the program and the city on Nov. 20 in Garland thanks to a dramatic rally. Trailing two sets to one in the title match against Keller, head coach Maddie Williams lit a fire under the Broncos during a team huddle, and TCU commits Carlee Pharris and Jalyn Gibson responded. With the loudest bench in Texas behind them, Brandeis took the final two sets 25-15 and 15-12. Senior Leila Smalls delivered the match’s final point, setting off a wild celebration at the Curtis Culwell Center. Gibson was named Tournament MVP, the perfect coda to an unforgettable season.

FULL RECAP: Brandeis volleyball rallies to top Keller 3-2, wins program’s first UIL State title

Stanford guard Kiana Williams (23) cuts down the net after the championship game against Arizona in the women's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, April 4, 2021, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Stanford won 54-53. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Wagner alumna Kiana Williams leads Stanford to National Championship in hometown

With the Women’s Final Four returning to the Alamo City for the first time since 2010, Kiana Williams knew that 2021 was her opportunity for a homecoming of epic proportions. The San Antonio native and Wagner alumna followed through and helped lead the Stanford Cardinal to their first National Championship since 1992. Four days removed from celebrating with her teammates on a traditional downtown river parade, Williams then realized another one of her childhood dreams and was drafted 18th overall by the WNBA’s Seattle Storm.

RELATED: San Antonio’s Kiana Williams drafted 18th overall by Seattle Storm

Head coach Jeff Traylor celebrates the Conference USA title with his team following UTSA's 49-41 victory over Western Kentucky in the Alamodome on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (KSAT)

UTSA football wins first Conference USA title, earns first national rankings

Where can we even begin with UTSA?

The Roadrunners’ season was nothing short of miraculous, featuring dramatic come-from-behind victories like their 31-28 road-win over Memphis and dominant shutout performances. Their record-shattering play earned national attention and the program’s first rankings in the AP Top 25 and AFCA coaches polls. They even broke into the College Football Playoff rankings!

UTSA’s regular season winning streak culminated in an unforgettable 34-31 victory over longtime Conference USA stalwart UAB in front of a raucous Alamodome that clinched the West Division title. Quarterback Frank Harris’ tipped, game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Oscar Cardenas is a play that will live forever in the hearts and minds of UTSA fans. After those dramatics, the Roadrunners claimed their first-ever Conference USA title with a heart-pounding 49-41 victory over Western Kentucky and played in their third-ever bowl game. Did we mention head coach Jeff Traylor signed a 10-year contract extension? Regardless of how it ended, UTSA put their #210TriangleOfToughness brand on display throughout 2021 and left a lasting mark on the San Antonio community that rallied to support them every step of the way.

READ MORE: Roadrunners beat Zappe, Hilltoppers, 49-41, for Conference USA title

Tim Duncan, left, smiles with presenter David Robinson after being enshrined with the 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class Saturday, May 15, 2021, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Tim Duncan officially enshrined in Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Lastly, one more moment for “The Big Fundamental.”

As he was officially enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Spurs legend Tim Duncan capped his basketball career with a memorable and moving speech. In it, the five-time NBA champion reflected on his humble beginnings in the Virgin Islands, thanked teammates like fellow Hall-of-Famer David Robinson and “Big Three” costars Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, and honored his parents’ impact on his life. But he saved the best for last: a heartfelt tribute to longtime head coach Gregg Popovich.

“The standard you set... you showed up after I got drafted. You came to my island. You sat with my friends and my family. You talked with my dad. I thought that was normal. It’s not,” Duncan stated. “You are an exceptional person. Thank you for teaching me about basketball, but even beyond that, teaching me that it’s not all about basketball. It’s about what’s happening in the world, about your family. Just, for everything, thank you for being the amazing human being that you are.”

The words and emotions shared by the usually reticent superstar served as a fitting capstone to an incredible legacy, one that will last forever here in the Alamo City.

READ MORE: Top five moments from Spurs legend Tim Duncan’s emotional Hall of Fame speech

About the Authors

Larry Ramirez joined the KSAT 12 sports team in October 2004.

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