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A magical march in March

POSTED December 29, 2013
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                                                     A magical march in March


            It was not about just one person, it was about a team. And it wasn’t just about a team it was about a team and a town. It was all encompassing with the lesson that the journey is what so much of it is about, the better measuring stick sometimes that overpowers the final destination.

            The Thomaston High girls basketball team did not have to win the Class S state championship in March. In fact it was pretty much ordained that unless powers far beyond those of mere mortals or a few UConn players could be disguised and suited up that the Bears were going to get roughed up by a brilliant, somewhat haughty and in-the-wrong-class Capital Prep team and they were, 84-55.

            And you know what? It didn’t matter. Oh, everybody wants to win and sure the Bears and their fans hoped for something that would turn a foregone conclusion into the miracle at Mohegan. It did not happen nor did it detract from a marvelous sojourn to the last game on the last day of the season where everybody wants to be and only two get to do it.

            We move on from season to season, game to game, performance to performance. The sports world is never motionless. But there are those events and people that grab us and resonate with us more than others. This past year was no different.

            As I sat back to reflect this week much of the last 12 months found its way out of the mothballs of my mind. The stories and events and people that stuck with me.

 The ugly events that sucked the Torrington High football program in, the poor coverage of those events by the area media and the eventual hiring of a quality guy in Gaitan Rodriguez uniquely qualified by history, profession and temperament to handle the rebuilding process.

The continuing brilliance of one classy young lady and outstanding basketball player, Sarah Royals, who took her considerable game from the Connie Donahue Gymnasium court to the land of Division I University of Albany and continues to make Torrington proud as a quality starter.

One more honor for an accomplished woman who I have known and covered for more than 20 years now, Thomaston’s Amy Matthews who was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame with some guy named Auriemma and a lady named Dailey.

A long-overdue Hall of Fame induction for the winningest coach in Berkshire League history and a man I’ve come to know and respect over the last almost 30 years, Northwestern Regional’s Fred Williams.

The hiring and eventual shabby treatment of Ed Gadomski as the Torrington Titans General Manager.  This organization has much to learn here.

On a personal note, watching the utter joy as only a 13-year old can express it after I woke him up so he could watch the Boston Red win the World Series.

Watching the tragic events unfold at the Boston Marathon and quickly checking up on people we knew that were running that day. Then later on in the week from Key West, Fla., in a Red Sox bar of all places listening to David Ortiz utter the most well-placed f-bomb in live television history.

A full year. But nothing sticks with me like the run of the Thomaston Golden Bears.  There is nothing like a state title or a trip to the championship game and living in a small town. A small town with its own school whose student’s live no more than bout three and a half miles away at the farthest distance. Those who have experienced it all know what I am talking about, those who haven’t I hope you get the opportunity someday.

It is a memory of a lifetime. You don’t live off of it, you revel in it. It is a cultural moment for the ages.

The week leading up to the big game was a cornucopia of feel good.  Thomaston hadn’t been to a championship game in 20 years and who knows when the next time will be.

There were signs in the local grocery store urging the Bears on. A school pep rally and conversation wherever you went was about the Bears. At Tony’s Coffee Shop owner Tony Turina who knows something about state titles from his days at the Torrington High coach said all his customers were talking about were the Thomaston High girls.

A proud citizen paid for the team to stay over at the Marriot in Norwich so they wouldn’t have to make the Saturday morning bus trip such a long distance for the early game. Fire trucks and ambulances escorted the team out of town.

On the day of the game, three busloads of students also known `The Cave’, the Bears vocal cheering section, made the trip. Understand folks, this was more than 100 students in a school of less than 300.

After the game a fire truck welcomed the team back to town and Turina named drinks after each member of the team. There was a banquet and gifts.  But maybe the entire journey’s best moment came near the end of the 29-point loss.

When seniors Maggie Eberhardt and Sydney Keith came out of the game they were hoisted on the shoulders of their teammates. Nobody was taking this moment away, the heck with the final score.

The Bears clearly sent the message that the journey beat the final score. The Bears didn’t win, but they won because they got it. The Capital players looked a the Bears’ big smiles and had to be wondering if somebody had put something in the water cooler.  Nothing guys, nothing but a mountain of pride and an overwhelming appreciation for the experience.

Writers aren’t supposed to root. But let’s be honest, they hope a lot underneath. When your local teams take the journey they take us along with them and we want them to succeed. No different here.

I played a lot of softball with Sydney Keith’s dad, Ray. I know Abby and Gabrielle Hurlbert’s entire family and covered her father John when he played for the Golden Bears and University of Hartford. One of my all-time favorite athletes is Morgan Sanson’s mom, Lisa, who was such a brilliant three-sport performer for Thomaston in the 1980s and now resides in Connecticut Softball Hall of Fame.  I know Maggie Eberhardt’s family.

Bears coach Bob McMahon grew up two houses down on the other side of the street from me. His father, Gene, is pretty much of a local legend. 

There was much magic in the march in March. What a journey for a team and a town and for me the best sports story of the year.


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