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A wistful changing of the seasons

POSTED March 25, 2016
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

            THOMASTON – There’s still a bit of a basketball hangover but I’m getting there. The desk and all of its tournament printouts, stat sheets and notebooks has been cleaned up to an extent. It will never be clean enough for my wife, but that is another story. Four days ago there was a redwood worth of assorted papers strewn about. Now there is only a small oak tree’s worth.

            There is no time like late February and March-madness high school style for me. It is a cornucopia of emotions cemented by big wins, big performances, the emergence of players, the end of careers.

            It is a journey of the bittersweet a three-week or so atmosphere of electricity generated by the dream of the titles both league and beyond. It is that push for the Promised Land called Mohegan Sun, the drive to dance the dance of champions. It is the hope, it is always the hope.

            It is student fan sections permanently on frenetic and towns turned on. For some it is a beginning. For others a finality with no tomorrow. It is a season of special or one with the immense capacity to produce special and painful in so many ways.

            I love it to death. My wife yells at me because it is three weeks of non-stop games and where am I going tonight thoughts. It is boys and girls and it is all encompassing. It is road maps, Map Quest, the CIAC website, previews, phone calls, 11 p.m. writing deadlines with a 5:10 a.m. wakeup call every morning.

I tend to forget about everything and become single-minded enough to kind of forget about the rest of life. Yeah, I did forget how to tie my tie one morning. She begrudgingly understands. And let me emphasize the begrudging part. It is my focus. In my mind it is three weeks I wouldn’t trade despite all the red eyes.

It is all extra special if you get on the coattails of a real ride to the Sun. Which brings us to Thomaston. You have heard a lot about Thomaston. Why? Because the Bears have made a pretty loud unfathomable noise that won’t soon if ever by duplicated.

They were all the bittersweet rolled into one Bear this year. They won the Berkshire League and BL title for a fifth year in a row. Two-time defending Class S champions, they rolled into the finals.

And oh how they wanted to put a bow on it all. Finish off this part of an incredible story that expands way beyond basketball. Canton didn’t buy into it. Stung by a defeat to the Bears a year ago, they spent the whole year basically preparing for the Bears and it paid off.

In the end the Warriors were the better team with a 64-51 win for their first ever state title. Brian Medeiros and his club were the queens of the Class S mountain this day.

With the result it was time to say a basketball good-bye to the Bears’ Morgan Sanson, Gabrielle Hurlbert and Nicole Schaefer, the guts of it all. Then there was Charlotte Eberhardt, Sam Brostek and Danielle Genest and their contributions. We saw them grow up before our eyes. We saw them win nearly every damn thing they played for in front of our eyes. They lived at Mohegan for four years and at 11:30 a.m., last Saturday it came to an end.

Their story extends far beyond the basketball court but basketball has been the center piece.  Be in awe of them and all they have done.

But there was more to the post-season story than the Bears. The Holy Cross girls, overcame a late season loss to their best player, Century McCartney, and regrouped to regain the NVL title after a disappointing loss to Torrington the year before.

The run didn’t stop there. It got to the Class M semifinals. While it wasn’t enough against eventual Class M champion and the state’s No. 2 ranked team, Cromwell there was one grand finale from RaShana Siders.

The sharp-shooting guard hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter, six for the game, and fired in 30 points giving Crusaders fans one lasting memory at Berlin High School. A great run for the Crusaders who said good-bye to rugged center Caitlin Cipriano and the solid Kaitlyn Grimshaw.  

Holy Cross never goes away so there is always next season. But this was another outstanding campaign for the Crusaders and coach Frank Lombardo.

Being at Berlin that night it was also a time to reconnect with former Woodland High Athletic Director and Holy Cross Principal, Dan Scavone who is currently Berlin’s A.D. and will retire at the end of the school year. He is a class act all the way. 

Notre Dame of Fairfield coach Eric DeMarco, former Seymour coach was also there, and it was good to see his team hand Enfield its first loss of the season and advance to the Class M championship game.

I was fortunate to get one final look at maybe the greatest team this area has ever seen – the state’s No. 1 Sacred Heart who decimated Class M for its third straight state title. And if you didn’t get to see the Hearts at some point in recent times, kick yourself. You will be hard-pressed to see a team like this in the future if ever.

I covered the Hearts against NVL foe Watertown, a team that fought itself proud and was only down nine points at one point in the third quarter. But, the Hearts are the Hearts.  As Auburn-bound Mustapha Heron said after the game, “Once we got the dunk show going, we were okay.” The Hearts won, 85-47.

Heron may be the best player to ever play in the Valley. He was superb and you once again saw what Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, who was in the Hearts’ house, continues to see. There is little he can’t do. He finished with 28 points and 11 boards.

But the Hearts are so much more with Taryn Flowers, Charles Fisher and the rest of the game. Their layup lines were worth the price of admission. And once again we were reminded of Heron’s class which matches his talent. Patient with autograph seekers and admiring fans, well-spoken, he has been a terrific representative for his school, team and all concerned.

While not on duty one night, my son and I took the trek to Masuk High School to see the Holy Cross boys in the Class S semifinals against eventual champion Immaculate. Little did we realize at the time it would be the last game in the legendary career of Crusaders coach Ed Generali who announced his retirement this past week after 35 seasons.

Immaculate’s Darius Smith was brilliant finding his way to the hoop and rim at will and the Crusaders didn’t shoot well. But you don’t sneeze at semifinal appearances.  Generali and his team went down fighting. He will be missed but he goes out on top.

Before the tournament started the BL Boys Tournament gave us some big time drama and kind of kicked off the frenzy that the season is all about. Nonnewaug’s Nick DeCicco scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as Nonnewaug edged Northwestern, 42-40, to avenge two regular season defeats to the Highlanders and added a crown to their BL title which they shared with Nonnewaug.

There was a sigh of relief this past week when I woke up Monday morning and realized there were no more gyms to go to, no more calls to make, no more photo shoots (Thomaston) to put together. No more rosters to run off, no more money needed to feed the gas tank.

But I must confess there has been emptiness. I miss the electricity and the juice the season brings. I miss watching towns and students rally around their teams. I miss the air of excitement of the March gym.

It is time to move outdoors, baseball and softball beckon. But I do it wistfully. The soul of the recently completed season seduces me.   

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