Berkshire League making a bang at WCSU
Berkshire League making a bang at WCSU
DANBURY – A hop, skip and medium-sized jump down Route 84, not far from the New York border at Western Connecticut State University’s Feldman Arena there was somewhat of a Berkshire League basketball block party going on. It will continue through early March and beyond.
The Western Connecticut State University women’s basketball team was doing battle with St. Joseph’s of Maine recently and at one point the Colonial’s lineup looked like this – Sciarra Brandt, Brittany Brandt, Maggie Eberhardt and Kerri Stolle. While not of BL blood just for the record the lineup was rounded out by Chelsea Mone of St. Paul vintage.
For the record, that’s three former Thomaston players (the two Brandts and Eberhardt if your recent hoop history is a little sketchy) and a Wamogo contribution carries the rather famous name of Stolle.
Who would have thought it, the BL a hot bed of basketball. And the idea of having four players on the floor of BL blood is not lost on the four players.
“We call ourselves the BLT with a side of mayo,” said Sciarra Brandt, senior and co-captain. “That’s Berkshire League Trio and now that Maggie is here, she is the mayo. It’s fun to play together. I love it. In high school Kerri was such a great threat and Brittany has so much passion and now Maggie is here.”
While the BL has produced its share of outstanding players who have gone on to play in the college, the Class S-M league in the northwestern corner of the state doesn’t exactly have college coaches overwhelming the area gyms.
So mix that with the idea that you have four of them playing in college at the same school and at times on the court at the same time, well, they will tell you that it is pretty neat.
“At first it was just Brittany and Sciarra and I hated playing against them in high school. Now it’s Maggie,” said Stolle with a smile. “It was not intended to be like this. But I like playing with them. We are having a lot of fun.”
In the long run it is not the BL that brought notice to the players, it is the players that have brought notice to the BL. Western coach Kim Rybczyk admits she doesn’t get to many BL games.
“We see a lot of kids in the AAU program, I don’t get to see a lot of Berkshire League games,” said Rybczyk. ‘We’ve had a lot of luck with Thomaston kids and we recruited the heck out of Stolle and she came back to us. (Maggie) was recruited by a Division II school (Post University) for a reason.
Hey, the BL kids can play. (Maybe there was an inkling of that in the past when Thomaston’s Amy Matthews became the second all-time leading scorer in WCSU history and was inducted into the school’s hall of fame and the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame).
Stolle and Eberhardt are the new additions. The mini-pipeline from the BL to Western started with Sciarra Brandt. Probably Thomaston’s best all-around player on the Bears 2009-10 undefeated Berkshire League championship team, the 5-foot-10 forward / center has been here from the start and made the most of it.
Brandt has played since arriving on campus and coming off of a what she terms a subpar junior season, she is playing a grand finale. She earned MVP honors of the Richard Stockton Tournament early in the season, a two-game gem in which she registered a monster 23-point, 20-rebound effort in the opening win over Farmingdale and then had a six-point, six board effort in the championship game.
She currently is averaging 8.6 points and 7.6 rebounds a game.
“My heart and head weren’t in it last year,” said Brandt. “I wasn’t here. This year I’m here with my whole heart. It’s my senior year and that goes through your mind. This is it and its amazing this season. Awesome.”
“Sciarra came in here and started on a dominating class as a freshman,’ said Rybczyk. “She has so many dimensions. She is a great defender and a great shooter. She sees things well and is definitely our leader. She’s got it turned around this year, she’s really focused.”
Sciarra feels right at home because sister and lifelong teammate Brittany is running right with here. Her story has been one of more perseverance than pizazz. After helping the Golden Bears to that undefeated season in 2009-10 and having a marvelous two games in the state tournament, she went to UConn-Avery Point.
The school had difficulty fielding a team and Brandt eventually transferred to Western. She received limited playing time a year ago and the story took an interesting twist.
“The Brandts are an amazing family,” said Rybczyk. “At the end of last season I offered Brittany the opportunity for a position as a student-coach. I didn’t see her coming in her senior year and playing much. Brittany also knew her minutes would be limited. She said she wanted to think about it and that is why I love this kid.”
So much for the best laid plans….During the fall the Colonials were short in numbers. Rybczyk asked her to put her uniform back on. Brittany was reluctant at first but in the end decided there was one more season of basketball left. She drained a pair of shots of this day in a healthy 20 minutes of action.
“It feels really good. I know my role when I get my time,” said Brittany who is averaging a basket a game.
An old respected foe joined the Brandts this season – the last of the great Stolle clan from Wamogo - Kerri. After a year at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania (2.7 avg.) she transferred in and is the steadying presence for the Colonials like she was for coach Kevin Crowley’s Warriors in high school, averaging 7.8 points and dishing the ball off.
“I’ve had to adjust to defense and concepts but I’ll play wherever they want me to,” said Stolle. “I love playing for this team.”
“Kerri is just a solid kid who will do whatever we need her do,” said Rybczyk. “She just goes out and does it.”
The latest addition is the mercurial Eberhardt who is less than year away from being carried off of the floor at Mohegan Sun after finishing her career in the Class S state finals. . She has been at Western just three weeks after leaving Post. With just several days of practice, she registered 10 minutes in her first game. There were no points on 0-5 shooting but it didn’t take long.
In two games since then Eberhardt has pumped in 14 and 15 points in a pair of victories. Talk about making an impact.
“I’m trying. I’m thinking a lot and I feel fine,” said Eberhardt after the opener.
“We’re still trying to figure out (where she fits in),” said Rybczyk. “We threw right into the fire the first game. She will help. She was recruited by Division II for a reason.”
That was before the next two games. She is fitting in fine.
You can get in the car and drive the 45 minutes or so to watch Western Connecticut play but don't be surprised if you get that feeling you are close to home.
There's a big-time Berkshire League feel going on at Western Connecticut.