From UConn's 100 to a ceremony for Peter Wallace. A week filled with great moments.
TORRINGTON: With the weekend coming up here at Litchfield County Sports, I wanted to reflect on what turned out to be one remarkable week.
Sometimes memorable moments come when you expect them to, other times they seem to come out of nowhere and surprise you in a great way.
The first, on Monday night, wasn’t a great surprise because you had to figure that with the University of Connecticut women going for their 100th straight win against highly ranked South Carolina, it was going to be a moment.
Turns out it was, but aside from the hard-fought win over the Gamecocks, I witnessed an environment I had not seen before at Gampel Pavilion during the four years we have been covering the Huskies.
The packed house created an electric buzz throughout the build-up right down to the post game that featured $100 dollar bills flowing down on the faithful with head coach Geno Auriemma’s face adorning them.
It had feel of an NCAA Final, right down to the post-game on court celebration but it happened at home as opposed to a gym 1,000 miles away from Connecticut.
There is something about a campus scene that never gets old and always makes you feel young.
Remember, the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament are played in Storrs, but in front of much smaller, less enthusiastic crowds.
Monday night was one for the books in more than one way.
It goes down as win No. 100 in a row and gets filed away under one of the greatest events we have covered in our eight years as a media outlet.
--Before leaving for Storrs, I gathered the Torrington girls softball team for pictures that will be used in a booklet I’m making for its upcoming trip to Orlando, Florida in early April.
The trip is a once in a lifetime experience for the Raiders and will be a very memorable experience for LCS as well when we accompany them to Florida and will be sending back exclusive, behind-the-scene stories on what it was like to play at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
It too, should be filled with moments.
--On Tuesday, the Torrington girls fell to Watertown for the second time this year by a 51-47 final on Senior Night.
Each senior received as part of their gift bags, a custom-made tee-shirt with their names on it from all of us at LCS.
After the game, I spoke with Raider star Brie Pergola about her game and got an answer I had never heard from a senior in all my years asking about how fast their high school career had gone.
The standard answer I have gotten every time I have asked that question was that the time had flown by. The player normally can’t believe how fast they went from being freshman to their status as seniors.
In this case, Pergola told me the opposite, that she feels like she had been at the high school forever, something opposing coaches who were haunted by her skills have probably thought all along.
I appreciated the answer for it’s obvious truth. Pergola will go on to play ball at the next level, she has those kinds of skills.
Her court vision is next level and she will make her teammates at whatever school she goes to that much better for her being with them.
Great answer, Brie.
--Wednesday night, I made my way over to Oliver Wolcott Technical School for a special presentation for a coaching legend, Rene’ Williams, who was retiring after 39-years in the business.
His remarkable dedication to the student/athletes at Tech is unapparelled. His ability to keep kids, who don’t usually go to Tech to play sports, was remarkable.
The Wildcats are 0-19 this season, after going 1-19 a year ago. Watching the team play a better skilled team from Vinyl Tech on Wednesday night showcased a team that didn’t give up, and fought hard before falling by a 68-55 final.
The players play for coach Williams and that says a great deal about the man behind the tie.
--Thursday night will be a night that sticks with me for some time.
It was Senior Night for the Raider boys basketball team and they were playing in a critical game against a hot Seymour team who was fighting for their position in the upcoming NVL Tournament a week from Saturday.
It was also a night that we planned on honoring a friend and colleague of ours, Peter Wallace, during half time.
Mr. Wallace was let go by the Register Citizen a few weeks back after being a fixture at the Connie Donahue Gymnasium since starting in Torrington back in 1999.
His dedication to the players and coaches of Torrington High School and surrounding towns is the stuff legends are made of.
We wanted to give the players and fans of Mr. Wallace an opportunity to say thank you and for Mr. Wallace to do the same to them.
The original plan was for various members of the school or coaches to say a few words to him, allow him to talk to his fans and take it from there.
It morphed into something so much better.
Once it got close to game time, the crowd, good for Senior Night as expected, had more than its fair share of players who filled the bleachers behind the scorer’s table.
An email had gone out to the coaches at THS, asking then to have their teams show up to honor and boy did they ever.
Once the cheer and dance teams had done their terrific routines, it was time to get the ceremony going.
After all, there was a second half to play and less than eight minutes to get the ceremony done.
The school handed the reigns over to me and I invited all Torrington High School athletes and coaches out onto the floor to join me and boy, did they come.
The floor was flooded with players and coaches who quickly formed a large circle around center court with a part made for Mr. Wallace to come down from the stands and join them.
As he made his way down to the court, a chant of “Peter Wallace” followed by clapping started up and got louder and louder as he made his way to the court.
The energy and love these kids showed a gut who had been writing about some of them for years was magnificent.
It was genuine and moving and I know Mr. Wallace appreciated it greatly.
Mr. Wallace took the microphone, something I wasn’t sure he was going to, and proceeded to thank all of those who came out to support him while expressing how much he missed them and hoped to see them again down the line.
The players and coaches, along with the fans in the stands then took Mr. Wallace off the court with a second chant along with a standing ovation.
It was a great evening, the Raiders got the win, 72-61, and secured their spot above the Wildcats in sixth place and the student/athletes at Torrington High School did its school and community proud, saying thank you to a man who had given them so much.
Each day that I wake up and get to talk about and write about sports is a blessing. Some weeks just have a little more juice to them.
What will next week bring?