The bittersweet changing of seasons
It’s been a week now since the final baskets were scored in the high school basketball season. I always have mixed emotions at this time. After four months the gyms start to look alike, the winter grows old. The days get longer, most of the time the weather starts to turn. It is time to move on. The outside beckons.
On the other hand, there is an emptiness. Especially in recent years when the season ends at the best of all possible places – Mohegan Sun. The two-time defending Class S champion Thomaston girls continue to take us on memorable rides to the mountain top and while we might not be as closely affiliated, the Sacred Heart boys have done the same.
Last Monday was a mixture of emotions. I did not have to think about what venue I was heading to, think about how much time I needed to get there and run off tournament roster and bracket sheets, get gas and worry about what I was eating for supper and when. That was the good part.
But, there was an emptiness that went with it. A wistful sense that it was over. I looked at my desk which my wife has threatened to have condemned. It was full of statistical sheets, notebooks, newspaper articles, all the tools of the trade, but the pulse was now gone. It is a working desk, my wife just doesn’t really like it working that hard in the living room.
We get invested in what we do. Less than 48 hours prior it had been the euphoria of another down-to-the wire Thomaston title. On Sunday I had watched Sacred Heart finish off perfection with its title win over Valley Regional, tired enough to not want to make another trip to Mohegan.
The final run and the rush had started with the NVL boys and girls league tournament semifinals and went straight on through to Mohegan. It took me to Northwestern Regional, Kennedy High, Thomaston, Wamogo, Holy Cross, Wilby, SMSA in Hartford, Torrington and some parts unknown, five nights a week. Then it was over. The tournament high giving way to post-season blue, at least momentarily. Kind of an okay what do I do now scenario.
It was late nights, ugly eating habits that included grindermania, a lot of travel, disappointment for the losers, excitement for the winners.
One thing I have learned over the years, however, is to live in and cherish the moment. At some point Thomaston will stop winning titles even though it seems right now it will go on indefinitely. You take the performances, the support of its fans and town so immense and impressive and you latch on to it. It is a special time that they will remember for years, so you enjoy, appreciate it and take it for granted.
Sacred Heart will not always have Mustapha Heron, Milik Petteway and the rest of the gang. This year’s undefeated group, No. 1 in the state and No. 30 in the country, is now in the argument for Waterbury’s all-time best team with the undefeated 2005 Crosby team. You savor the excellence.
I thought Holy Cross had the most talented team in the NVL this season. And you know what that means? Didly squat. In a most impressive NVL title game at Sacred Heart, Mike Fritch and his Torrington Red Raiders earned the right to call themselves champions thanks to people like Brie Pergola and Shelby Howe.
Torrington’s season ended quickly with a home loss to Kennedy in the state tournament, but there is that NVL title, the second in three seasons to point to and it shouldn’t be overlooked or understated.
It’s been a long time since the BL has seen a player of Shea Tracy’s shooting prowess, scoring ability and overall talents. It will be a long time before the BL sees a player of Tracy’s talents. Freckles, red hair and a slight frame, Tracy was a Huck Fin with game and put up numbers (31.3 avg.) the league hadn’t seen since Wamogo’s gentle giant Chuck Aleksinas in the mid to late 1970s. He graduates his body, not his performance and you remember his moments, the step back, the 48 points against Thomaston, a 50-point effort.
Torrington gave us Brie Pergola and the sky is the limit for the talented sophomore who has all the tools to create a career that will be Torrington special long after she is gone.
Holy Cross gave us RaShana Siders and the explosiveness she can provide in two games against Torrington. And let’s not forget the Naugatuck boys and coach Mike Wilson turning the Rubber City back into a basketball town after so many years with an uplifting run to the Class L finals. Once again athletics and particularly basketball was the main show in Naugatuck.
And if you can’t imagine what a run like that can for a community I would point you to Thomaston and Naugatuck, towns in love with their teams, creating electricity that is hard to imagine.
You want a moment. How about Thomaston’s Gabrielle Hurlbert. She had a chance to make the clinching foul shots against Canton in the Class final with 8.6 seconds left. She missed both. But, she is a Hurlbert.
She raced back down court and intercepted a pass to end the game, preserving the victory and another title and insuring another one of those special small town parades.
Regular season boys BL champion Northwestern Regional and Lewis Mills put on a memorable BL Tournament championship game and it was the Spartans that got to dance the dance of champions this time around adding more fuel to coach Todd Kozak’s already full tank of energy. Zach Ventres had himself a night with a half dozen 3-pointers in front of an energetic house at Wamogo.
College basketball still has nine days left and that includes the UConn women. But for the most part we are waiting for the snow to drag its white tail, the temperatures to start rising and ready for the spring sports scene.
But, you live in the moments which already are caught in the time warp of seemingly happening years ago and then again just yesterday.
It was a grand season. I am glad to see it go. I am sorry it has to go. I will clean off the desk. I will store the championship newspapers and hang on to the championship glow.
There is a gladness and an emptiness. As there always is. You keep the season with you and you move on to the next season. I will remember and I will move on. That’s the way it works.