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BL basketball benefits playing outside the league

POSTED December 12, 2011
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

 Hello Kolbe Cathedral and Amistad Academy. Welcome, Southington and Wilby. Nice to see you Berlin and Mt. Everett, Mass.  Meet the Berkshire League

There’s a new look to the Berkshire League or an old look resurrected this season depending on how you look at it. With Wolcott Tech dropping out of the league at the end of the last school year to join the state technical school league, for the first time in a quarter of a century, the BL is playing games outside of the league.

Nonnewaug boys coach Tim Drakeley has been trying to get the Berkshire League to extend outside of its own membership for years and is glad the chance has finally arrived for the BL to expand its horizons.

“I think it’s great for league. I’ve been trying to get us to split into two divisions ever since I came into the league but could never get the idea out of the coach’s meetings,” said Drakeley. “If we get non-league games I think it can only help us.”

Certainly from an interest point of view a new excitement has been added to the BL. Teams scheduled a variety of opponents ranging far and near and from Class LL to Class S.

Drakeley has renewed an old BL rivalry from the early days with a game against Pomperaug. Back in the day it was Woodbury against Southbury. But Drakeley also went to the NVL and hooked up with Wilby. That one should attract a few fans.

Staying with the boys’ side, Thomaston also turned to the NVL and will host St. Paul along with a road game against SMSA-Hartford. Housatonic is going out of state with a game against Mt. Everett, Mass and also plays Classical Magnet.

Terryville went the dull and safe route keeping Wolcott Tech on the schedule. Lewis Mills stays close to home with a game against Canton and then plays Oxford.

On the girls side, Northwestern Regional went big by scheduling Class LL Southington to go with Canton. Mills has a pair of games against Kolbe Cathedral while Wamogo has New Milford and New Fairfield on the schedule. Gilbert is going against Canton and Amistad Academy.

What dictates who you schedule? Certainly availability but after that it is competition and geography.  Drakeley scheduled Pomperaug because the two towns are old rivalries and right next store to one another. It is also a very competitive matchup

“No matter what Pomperaug puts on the floor they would be competitive in the Berkshire League,” he noted.

But, then he raised a few eyebrows by scheduling Wilby. The reasoning is simpler than it may seem.

“We have to play teams that are representative of who we play in the state tournament,” said Drakeley.

Some teams played it relatively safe, looking at the level of their own programs as part of their scheduling strategy. The Terryville girls reupped with Wolcott Tech for their two games which should insure two victories against the traditionally weak Wildcats.  The Terryville boys did likewise, although the OWT boys teams certainly have not always been automatic wins.

Coach Fred Williams was not thinking safe when he secured a game with Southington, a school with close to 3,000 students.

“Whether you are 12-8 or 11-9, a one-game swing is not critical,” said Williams. “If you play a team, a big school like them, it’s not going to hurt you.”

Let it be said that Williams is not crazy either. The coach with more than 510 career wins did not purposely schedule a team that is going to beat him by 80 points. He feels he club can be on the same court as Southington and come out of it with a good experience.

While the boys season has not started yet and the girls have just a couple of games in it is evident going outside the league is going to be a challenge and the BL is up to the challenge.

On opening night SMSA defeated Litchfield, 41-32, New Milford nipped Wamogo, 31-30, Canton downed Gilbert, 47-42 and Kolbe Cathedral knocked off Lewis Mills, 44-35. Four games, four losses but four very competitive games.

While new opponents seems to breed only the positive, Williams did admit it was a bit easier when the schedule only included league teams.

“As an A.D., it’s a pain in the butt,” said Williams. “It’s hard to schedule teams especially when you have nine other teams looking for games. You find yourself being in competition with everyone else. Plus, you don’t want to have to go play in Old Saybrook or places far away like that. Still, while Wolcott Tech always had kids who worked hard but their talent level in basketball was near the bottom. This is good for the league.”

Difficulty in scheduling not withstanding, certainly playing outside the league again has created a buzz. Tell me Nonnewaug-Wilby doesn’t stir you interest up more than normal. Or Northwestern girls vs. Southington. How about Thomaston and St. Paul’s in boys basketball.

The Berkshire League interest level has gone up a couple of notches this season. You can’t argue that.

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