Looking back at Sacramento’s best sports stories of 2023

Dec 30, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: May 23, 2024, 4:38 am

An exterior view of the Golden 1 Center after they lit the beam after the Sacramento Kings beat the...

An exterior view of the Golden 1 Center after they lit the beam after the Sacramento Kings beat the Golden State Warriors in Game Two of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at Golden 1 Center on April 17, 2023 in Sacramento, California.

2023 was nothing short of an amazing year for sports in the Sacramento region.

The Kings made the playoffs for the first time since 2005. Sacramento Republic FC nearly made the USL Championship Final for the first time in a decade. There was also no shortage of collegiate and high school sports triumphs.

Ending a 16-season playoff drought

The Sacramento Kings put the basketball world on notice in 2023, ending what was the longest playoff drought in American team sports.

In his first season as Kings head coach, Mike Brown was able to change the culture of the team, which led to him being named NBA Coach of the Year.

De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis led the way during the 2022-23 season, and both received All-NBA Third Team honors. Keegan Murray was a standout as a rookie and seems to be taking leaps as a sophomore, scoring a career-high 47 points recently.

Sacramento’s basketball future is almost as bright as the victory beam that shines above Golden 1 Center after the Kings’ wins.

Wait, he’s how old?

When Da’vian Kimbrough subbed in for Sacramento Republic FC against Las Vegas Lights FC, he made history.

Kimbrough,13, became the youngest American soccer player to appear in a match.

The Woodland native has been with Republic FC’s academy since 2021 and has been a prolific goal scorer and played in divisions with older players. He was named MVP of the Bassevelde U13 Cup, a prestigious youth tournament.

Kimbrough’s contract allows him to play in Republic FC’s USL Championship matches while also continuing his studies with Elk Grove Charter School.

Read his full story here.

San Francisco Giants sign a Rocklin native for $90 million

In April, Logan Webb signed a 5-year, $90 million contract to stay with the San Francisco Giants.

The pitcher has roots in Rocklin and is glad to be able to pitch somewhere close to home.

To learn more about his baseball journey click here.

The Folsom Bulldogs Win A State Championship

Folsom High School’s football team was crowned CIF Division 1-A state champions with a late touchdown against St. Bonaventure.

Sophomore quarterback Ryder Lyons threw the game-winning pass to Jameson Powell with mere seconds left on the clock to bring home the victory.

This was Folsom’s fifth state title.

March Madness at Golden 1 Center

Several games of the NCAA Tournament for Division 1 men’s basketball were played at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.

This included Princeton’s huge round 1 upset against Arizona.

Hey now, you’re an All-Star!

The Kings and Republic FC both had several players who were recognized for outstanding play in 2023.

De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis became the first All-Star and All-NBA players for the Sacramento Kings since Demarcus Cousins. Fox was also named the NBA’s inaugural Clutch Player of the Year.

Republic FC earned four selections from the USL Championship 2023 All-League teams, more than any other team.

Goalkeeper Danny Vitiello and defenders Conor Donovan and Jack Gurr were all named to the first team for the first time in their careers. Forward Russell Cicerone was named to the second team.

11-year-old Sacramento swimmer takes home gold

Eleven-year-old Asha Woodruf was diagnosed after birth with achondroplasia, a rare genetic condition and the most common form of dwarfism.

“It was scary at first, not knowing what we were entering into, but luckily we found a community in the Little People of America, and they’ve been fantastic,” Sonia Woodruff, Asha’s mother said.

This year, Asha swam her way to Germany for the World Dwarf Games and racked up some serious hardware, including taking home the gold in the 25-meter breaststroke.

“I’m very proud of myself because I put a lot of work and effort into this,” Asha told KCRA 3’s Michelle Dapper.

Chopping Tree Down

Sacramento State’s football team entered its most successful era in program history once Troy Taylor took over as head coach.

They made the playoffs three times in four years from 2019 to 2022 and the only year they missed out was in 2020, when they did not participate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2022 Sac State’s only loss came in the playoffs when they were eliminated just a couple of rounds short of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game. Taylor announced his plans to take on the head coaching job at Stanford a few days after the loss.

Sac State took a trip to Palo Alto in Week 3 of the 2023 season to play against Taylor’s Stanford Cardinal team.

The Hornets found themselves down early and trailed for most of the game. But big defensive plays and late-game heroics from quarterback Kaiden Bennett, running back Marcus Fulcher and the rest of the offense helped them escape with a win.

Sac State’s upset win against Stanford and Taylor couldn’t have been scripted much better.

‘The NBA is better when Sacramento does well’

Just a few months after the Sacramento Kings ended their playoff drought and took the Golden State Warriors to the brink in a seven-game series, Charles Barkley made his appreciation for the beam team known at a celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe.

“Y’all got cable in Sacramento?” Barkley joked. “First of all, shout-out to the Kings. You guys were flat-out awesome this year.”

Barkley continued his praise of the Kings in an interview with KCRA 3, saying that the NBA is better when the Kings are playing well.

Sacramento’s boxing history

Sacramento was once known only for pro boxing before professional basketball and professional baseball came to town.

But Nasser Niavaroni, a former world kickboxing champion and now a local pro boxing promoter, has made it his mission to keep boxing as the sport of Sacramento.

Learn more about Sacramento’s rich boxing history here.

Watch Niavoroni talk to KCRA 3’s Del Rodgers about how he plans to bring notoriety back to the city’s boxing scene in the video player above.

40th Annual CIM in Sacramento

Thousands of runners and tens of thousands of spectators took part in the 40th annual California International Marathon on Dec. 2.

The 26.2-mile course ended in downtown Sacramento near the State Capitol.

C.J. Albertson was the first man to cross the finish line. He came in at just over 2 hours and 11 minutes.

The fastest woman was Grace Kahura. She broke the tape with a time of 2 hours and 29 minutes.

‘Game On: Fight for the Kings’

The Sacramento Kings’ return to basketball relevance was one of the best sports stories of the year.

The city beamed with excitement, local businesses focused marketing strategies around the team’s success and songs of celebration were even made.

It can be easy to forget that all of this excitement could have been happening in another city, if it weren’t for the rally to save the franchise from relocating in 2013.

KCRA 3’s documentary “Game On: Fight for the Kings” details the months-long battle between Sacramento and Seattle over ownership of the team.

For bonus content, click here.

This story was first published by our partner KCRA. Thank you for reading SactownSports.com. Follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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