BL Tournament Final Never Disappoints
It has become as good as any show going, a high school basketball drama that forces you to wipe the sweat off your brow, get the throat lozenges out and has you begging for more.
The Berkshire League Boys Basketball Tournament championship game capped off the regular season in wonderful style Thursday night at the Wamogo gym. Again. No one-hit wonder here. It’s all the rule now, not the exception.
There is no BL title on the line here. The regular season winner is the BL champion. But, the BL Tournament never much needed that kind of incentive to produce the special that has resulted in rollicking gyms and mighty prideful student bodies and small towns.
This time around it was Wamogo and Northwestern Regional that turned the night into a delirious Northwest Corner block party. Two ear-splitting student-body sections that also had you seeing red (both team’s colors) and a bunch of angles to bandy about.
League champ Northwestern trying to get it done without the services of four players who were suspended for disciplinary reasons. Wamogo trying to repeat as tournament champs and Northwestern trying to put the final touch on its status as the best of the BL.
Then you have the coaches. Underrated and stoic Northwestern coach Doug Sebach looking like he was ready to go out and hit some balls with Roger Federer. And never, ever rattled. I think you could drop Sebach right in the middle of the Indianapolis 500 and he would still be standing there with his hands folded watching or one hand on his chin.
On the other side the exact opposite – venerable and mercurial Gregg Hunt. I have covered a lot of games and coaches over the years and there is no one more fun to watch than Hunt. Jacket, sometimes plaid, and the basketball tie are constant companions. But there is much passion in the man and it is another planet away from Sebach’s type of passion.
It doesn’t take long for the frustration fueled walk or even a bit of a stomp down the other end of the bench. The head quickly begins to match the color of the uniforms. He is immersed in the most energetic of ways. I’d love to get a blood pressure count on him.
All that going on and you had the game that was the centerpiece. Wamogo, 50-41, in overtime. But forget the margin. This was both teams missing chances in regulation, Wamogo getting two shots blocked and turning the ball over and Northwestern missing a last shot as the gym rattled beneath the noise.
In overtime it was Cole Higgins draining a monumental three-pointer and Northwestern unable to find the bottom of the net as the game slipped away and the Wamogo student body did a little court storming.
Like we said, this was hardly just a good night. It was a continuation of what has become a habit in the BL Tournament final and I have covered them all in recent years. Well, until this year. This time I got to just watch.
Let’s go back a few years. In 2015, Lewis Mills defeated Northwestern, 59-55. The Highlanders trailed 54-46 with 1:36 then almost stole the whole darn show. Stephen McGrath cut the margin to 56-55 with a couple of foul shots and 21 seconds to go. Mills held on when Nate Cook went clutch and hit three from the line the rest of the way and McGrath missed a desperation three-pointer.
How about 2016? Nonnewaug hung on for a 42-40 victory over Northwestern again at a frenzied Wamogo gym when Nick DeCicco went off for 10 of his 16 points in the final quarter. DeCicco tied the game at 40 with a three-pointer with 1:15 to go. It was just the appetizer.
After a Nate Firlings steal, DeCicco drove the length of the court for the game-winning layup with 1.9 seconds left.
Then there was last year. In the frenzy of the Thomaston High gym, Wamogo pulled off a stunning 45-38 victory over Lewis Mills, a team that had had beaten them easily during the season.
Garrett Satazahn (19 points) buried a trio of treys in the third quarter for a 33-23 Wamogo lead only to see the Spartans rally back and take the lead, 38-37. Reid Turtoro than went big-time with a three-pointer and followed with a layup as Wamogo rallied and hung on.
With Mills contemplating leaving the BL at the time, who could forget the sign in the Wamogo fandom that read, “CCC you later.” This was a court-storming of the first proportions.
Yeah, baby this is an on-going party that lights up small schools and small towns in an era of half-empty gyms.
And it is very cool. You remember the games and the play but I tell you watching Gregg Hunt cut down the net with the smile of smiles tells you a lot. Even more so to see the crew of I don’t know 20-30 young kids and probably future Warriors the ages of 10-12 or so watching the celebration in adolescent euphoria. Very neat.
This BL Tournament final is a must see. Every year. Can’t wait until it rolls around again.