When the players came through for their coach in her time of need. The Raiders girls basketball team and Coach Erika.
TORRINGTON: The Torrington girls’ basketball team, under the guidance of long time head coach Mike Fritch, has always been about family.
Go to any Raiders home game and you are sure to find a bunch of youngsters running around behind the bench and this year, the potential future basketball players were even part of the greeting line when the team was introduced.
That family spirit was never more evident or more important than it was this year when one of their own, assistant coach Erika Pratt (Fritch’s daughter) suffered a tragedy when she lost a son after carrying him for nearly seven months.
On Sunday at the teams end of the year banquet, this group of student/athletes, their families and coaches got together to cry, celebrate and demonstrate how the power of the family unit is so strong in this program.
Erika Pratt grew up in the gym, she was one of those youngsters running around the Connie Donahue Gymnasium when she was young before taking to the court under the guidance of her father to become one of the all-time greats in Raider history.
Her 1069 career point total ranks seventh in school history on the girl’s side and her steady leadership as junior varsity coach has helped her develop one of the strongest farm system for the varsity team in the area.
During varsity games, she is seated to the right of her father and helps with in-game adjustments throughout and occasion, calm dad down. Okay, she does that a lot.
Just before the Naugatuck Valley League semi-finals on February 19, the Pratt and Fritch families suffered the loss of their son and the effect was felt throughout the Torrington community.
Anyone who has spent any time around these families understands that they are part of the fabric and back bone of this community.
A basketball game against rival Holy Cross was scheduled to be played on Monday night, less than 12-hours after the Pratt’s suffered their loss.
The team, who considers Erika a big sister/mom influence, was devastated in the locker room before the game started at Kennedy High School.
It was a night when basketball was so secondary to what was happening in life, but a game had to be played, nonetheless.
The Raiders fell behind 18-2 after one quarter and under the circumstances, who would have cared if the lost by 50, but showing a desire and maturity beyond their years, Torrington battled back and got within two in the second half before eventually falling to the Crusaders.
Once again, student/athletes had shown all of us their undying spirit and ability to pick themselves, and the adults around them, up under trying circumstances.
Their love and devotion was not lost on their assistant coach, who battled her emotions on Sunday night, but got her message of gratitude across to her team.
“I want to personally thank all the girls and the parents and my entire basketball family,” Pratt said while fighting back the tears. “For their love and support and prayers while I have been coping with the death of my son which has been the most difficult experience I faced but I am so grateful that I have all these girls to give me a hug and lift me up after this tragedy in my life. I love them all and I love you all forever. And remember that you are women, just like me and you have an unexplainable strength that you carry with you forever and for always.”
These kids got it, as most of the athletes we cover. They knew and understood what was important. Family.
Five seniors left their mark on this team.
Brie Pergola, Alexis Tyrrell, Sara Bardwell, Colleen Kilgore and Sidnee Kovall each took a moment to talk about their experiences with the program.
This was a group that helped the Raiders win the 2015, NVL Tournament title during their sophomore years, the year that Pergola broke onto the scene as one of the best players in the area.
The game for the championship was a true classic as the Raiders upset the top seed, Holy Cross by a 56-55 final led by Pergola who scored 20 and was named the MVP of the tournament.
As a group, they posted a 59-21 record over their four years, including a 19-1 year in 2014/2015 when they made the run through the NVL Tournament.
2015/2016 was a tough season (10-10) with Pergola out most of the year with injury but Torrington responded with a 15-5 record this season.
Sometimes in sports, life take over and a team’s character is defined.
This year’s Raiders team passed that grade with flying colors and it will serve them well in the future as they develop in terrific adults making their way through the world.
Be assured, Coach Erika will never forget what this team did for her family when they needed them the most.