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Kerri Stolle....The last in a long line of Wamogo greatness....Story by John Nestor.
This story brought to you by: Albreada Refuse & Sweeping, LLC
LITCHFIELD -Wednesday, February 15, was senior night for the Wamogo girls basketball team, a time to honor player as their high school career come to a close. But at Wamogo is was also the beginning of the final chapter of an amazing part of Warriors basketball history.
Wamogo senior Kerri Stolle played her final regular-season home game that night, turning in her usual standout, all-around effort with 18 points, eight assists and a number of other hustle plays that don't always show up in a box score.
The Warriors knocked off Northwestern that night and earned the No.3 seed in the Berkshire League tournament and those in attendance also got a reminder of the type of talent and grit and hustle that makes Stolle the best player in the Berkshire league.
It was also a reminder that for a number of years the best player on the court for the Warriors was a Stolle.
Kerri scored her 1,000th point against Thomaston on Feb. 1. becoming the third member of her family to reach the milestone as a Warrior. If that milestone seemed like something that was preordained, just about destined to happen, it may be because it was.
Consider the bloodlines.
Tracy started things off for the Stolle's at Wamogo, scoring 1,924 points and leading Wamogo to a 27-0 record and a state title in 1995. She went on to play collegiately at the University of Hartford.
Kelly didn't score 1,000 points but was no slouch on the court. She scored 713 points during her career and was a star in another sport, going on to play field hockey at UConn, where she was a three-year starter for the Big East conference power.
Then Kristi came along and racked up 1,488 points and helped lead the Warriors to a Class S title game before heading to Southern Connecticut to play for the Owls.
Now Kerri has taken her turn as the resident Stolle at Wamogo and carried on the family tradition in a way that can do nothing but make her family proud. On the court she is fun to watch. She finds open teammates, knows where to be with and without the ball, plays defense, rebounds and leads in every way possible.
"You do have to live up to that Stolle reputation but I didn't ever really have to worry about it, our family never puts any pressure on you, there isn't really any pressure at home," Kerri said. "It's really supportive, positive feed back. It's nice that they have already been through it and understand and know what I am going through."
What she is going through is an outstanding senior season in which she has helped the Warriors establish themselves as one of the BL's best and one of the top teams in Class S. Kerri has picked up a number of admirers of her game along the way.
"She doesn't care about scoring but she has 1,000 points," Wamogo boys coach Gregg Hunt said while watching Stolle on senior night. "She makes every player on the court better."
"She can do it all," Shepaug coach John Spear said after a recent loss to the Warriors. "She can impact the game so many ways, on offense, on defense. That's why she's the best player in the Berkshire League. She makes all the other players on the court that much better."
And that's the mark of a great player, making others better. That trait comes from experience, not only on the basketball court, but off it as well. Kerri has watched her older sisters before her and they've been there for her as well. The support and bond between the sisters and the entire family is easily evident. All three sisters were on hand for senior night along with parents John and Mary and brother Travis.
It was the beginning of the end of Kerri's high school basketball career but also the end of a way of life for the whole Stolle clan. Coming to and playing in games up on the hill in Litchfield has been a way of lilfe for the family for years, about 20. And the beginning of the end started to sink in.
"It's a little bittersweet," Tracy said. "We've been coming here, playing or watching each other play for so long that it's strange to think about that being over."
"It was nice to look back and see our names on the banners and know Kerri's name is going to be up there too," Kristi said. "We have definitely lef tour mark here and it has been a great time."
While there is a touch of sadness setting in, at the same time Kerri's last run has given the family a sense of pride, in her, and in their accomplishments as a family. The family history is marked by numerous titles and All-Star teams, but maybe even more importantly by friendships and a bond with each other.
"Well the Stolle's a finally gone, and I did say that meaning all of them not just Kerri," Northwestern coach Fred Williams said jokingly. "They are all great kids and have accomplished so much. While in a way it will be nice not to have to play against them, I'm also proud of them."
As they are of each other. What is special about this story is not just the accomplsihments that have come on the court but how they have come as a family. There is pressure, but not any more than any other athlete that wants to excel faces, and no extra pressure to live up to the family name, regardless of the previous accomplishments.
"I never felt any kind of pressure to be anything other than what I am," Kerri said. "My sisters will talk to me about stuff and what they see when I am playing, but it is always from a good place. And plus I can't argue with them because they are right."
"I think Kerri has handled everything beautifully, and I think it is because she is her own person," Kelly said. "She's involved in so many things, is class president, does so many other things that are her own. We are all just so proud of her and everything that she has accomplished and excited for her future and the woman she is going to grow to be."
But what Kerri is now is a player in search of a title. The Warriors face Nonnewaug on Tuesday in the Berkshire League Tournament semifinals and will host at least one game in the Class S state tournament.
The Warriors should be seeded fifth in Class S and once the postseason starts anything can happen, especially when you have a player like Kerri Stolle and a team that is coming togeher like the Warriors.
"We have grown as a team because there is a level of trust out there now that was still developing early in the season," Wamogo coach Kevin Crowley said. "Kerri makes everybody better and we are coming together at the right time. We should have a pretty good run."
It will be the last run for a Stolle and what a run it has been. Regardless of how it ends, Kerri will no doubt carry on the Stolle tradition, a tradition neatly summed up by Mary Stolle.
"I always told the kids if you are going to play, play hard and play well," she said.
And if there is one thing all of the Stolle's have done in their time at Wamogo it is play hard, and really, really well.