Wamogo adds final touch to BL blitz with tournament title
BURLINGTON – This is the way it should have ended. One final reminder of how good this Wamogo boys basketball team is. A majestic capper to one of the most historically powerful romps ever through the Berkshire League.
The league champion Warriors laid waste to the BL this season, the average margin of victory 34 points. You needed a plane flight to get from first to second place and beyond. And the Berkshire League Tournament was not going to derail that legacy.
Wamogo completed its BL blitzkrieg Friday night with a resounding 74-47 victory over Shepaug to capture the Berkshire League Tournament title and put a tidy, impressive bow on this part of the season.
“We knew we had to win the tournament to make it the kind of season we want,” said Wamogo coach Gregg Hunt. “You know Lewis Mills was undefeated in the regular season two years ago and lost and last year we beat Northwestern Regional. “
The two previous seasons the league champion came into the tournament and never was able to finish the BL off, both Mills and Northwestern victimized by? You guessed it, Wamogo.
The Warriors were not about to add to that story although this time they were the BL behemoth everybody was chasing.
“It’s a lot easier playing as an underdog than it is to be the guy being chased,’ said Hunt with a big smile. “You have to understand that (as the favorite) and give a big effort. I was very happy with our effort at both ends of the court tonight."
“In the pre-game coach talked about that and we knew we had come into tonight’s game really focused, “ said Wamogo’s Garrett Sattazahn who poured in a game 22 points to go with seven rebounds and six assists.’
“It was different from last year,” added senior Sean Coffey who registered a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. “ We took no team lightly. Coach told us that one third of the teams that win the league lose the BL Tournament.”
Based on the previous two years, there was a bit of a hint that a long night could be in store for the Warriors with a clunky 7-for-20 shooting effort in the first quarter. But teams of this pedigree find a way around the cold spells and so it was.
Wamogo plays some irritating defense. They swarm, double team, pick your pocket from behind, seem to have arms and hands everywhere. Kind of like there are seven or eight of them out there at times instead of five.
So while the ball was finding a difficult path to the bottom of the net, the defense was picking up the slack. The Warriors caused seven Shepaug turnovers in the opening period, thre times in the first couple of minutes, turning the game in their favor.
The result? A quick 9-0 lead in the first three and half minutes with Coffey converting a steal into a basket and then converting a three-point play off a fastbreak to highlight the run. Sattazahn added a rebound basket and layup.
It wasn’t until 2:41 was left in the period that Owen Hibbard got the Spartan’s first basket on a three-pointer from the win. By the end of the quarter Wamogo was leading, 15-8.
“The guys were still a little nervous in the beginning but we keep telling them that defense is our constant,” said Hunt. “You have to be able to defend on nights when the offense isn’t going.”
“Coach preaches defense all the time,” said Sattazahn. “The only way you are going to win is if you play defense all the time.”
Shepaug (14-9) figured that defense out for a while in the second quarter. Spurred on by sophomore guard Owen Hibbard (21 points), who if you haven’t seen play do yourself a favor and put it on your bucket list, who hit a three-pointer and drive to the basket, the deficit was sliced to, 21-17.
However, Wamogo responded with a warmed up offense. Reid Turtoro drained a three-pointer followed by Matt Mazzarelli with a bomb and a Sattazhan steal to get the lead to 10 points, 29-19.
Sattazahn would hit another trey before the half and pump in 12 points in the quarter, the Warriors would hit four from beyond the arc and take a 34-22 lead at the half.
The Warriors put the game away in the third quarter with a balanced blitz. Sattazahn went from swishing to dishing, Ethan Collins hit for six points and Coffey banged home a couple of three-pointers while Shepaug managed just two baskets and six points. All adding up to a 52-28 lead.
“In the second half we saw a box-on-one, 1-3-1…..a lot of different defenses and the kids executed,” said Hunt. “We have a lot of weapons for sure.”
Wamogo will enter the Division III state tournament next week as the No. 1 seed in a field that features the likes of Shelton, Naugatuck, Torrington, Farmington and the list goes on. It is an unprecedented challenge to be facing schools of that size.
As for the BL challenge? Handled in historically devastating fashion.