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Hoop Thoughts. Column by John Nestor.

POSTED March 23, 2012
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

I know, it's 80 degrees outside and your thoughts have turned to spring, possibly even summer.
But my calender still says March, three of my Final Four are still alive and I am still in hoops mode and slowly decompressing.
It was a great season in the gym.
Both Berkshire League races had some drama, I got to see a lot of games and personally I had a great season with my oldest son's Rec-hoops team and my kindergarten twins' first foray into Biddy Basketball.
It was a good winter.
So don't kid yourself.
You know as well as I do that there's a better than average chance of flurries on April 4 when the local baseball season starts and I like
baseball and will get out to games, but to me, spring and summer is the time to get better at football and hoops.
Which brings me to my first thought.
There's a saying that goes something like "Teams are made from November through March. Players are made the rest of the year."
Or something to that effect.
The point is you've got to play and you've got to work in the offseason.
From a lot of the games I saw if local players did nothing but work on their left hand and mid-range jumpers they would be better, a lot better.
Feel free to hit the weight room too.
I'm not coming at you as a know it all, but I have been there and hindsight is 20-20, if not better.
The Berkshire League was up for grabs on both sides this season and Watertown winning the NVL tourney and going to the Class M finals should be a wake-up call too, if you work, it will make a difference.
I got to cover my first Northwestern-Gilbert boys hoops game this season, I actually got to see the matchup twice and both times it was great.
First I went to the Hive and saw Gilbert get out in front and hold off Northwestern despite a charge from the Highlanders in the third quarter.
It gave the Yellowjackets a regular-season series sweep and injected some life into the BL race.
I was also on hand for the BL Tournament final as Luis Cordova banked a late three from straight on (No, he didn't call it) and the Yellowjackets took the momentum
into overtime and won the game and cut down the nets as tournament champs.
Both games were exciting and .... WELL ATTENDED!
The stands were packed, the fans, especially student sections, were into it and it added to the game, providing a
great atmosphere.
The fans rode the other team, and each other, but it was fun and no lines were crossed, and it sure as heck beat the aternatives.
I went to a number of games this season that could have been played in the library the place was so quiet, and it's disappointing.
I figure it must be disappointing as well for the teams and coaches involved too.
Last I checked there is no friends and family only policy at these games, so if you are a student, town resident or just a
basketball fan, get into the gym.
Support local high school sports.
Is there that much going on where a school's students can't pack the gym once a week, maybe twice?
Take pride in your school, and that doesn't mean just sports, but it's a good place to start.
So hat's off to the kids at Northwestern and Gilbert for coming out. Thomaston did a pretty good job as well, especially for the state quarterfinal against Portland.
The Class S semi between Immaculate and Northwestern had a pair of good student sections as well.
The Thomaston girls basketball team wasn't going to sneak up on anybody this season and had to take every team in the BL's best shot.
The Bears were able to withstand the challenge and won both the regular season and league tournament titles. No easy feat.
The Bears were 3-3 at one point in the season, had lost a tough BL game to Nonnewaug on the road and were 3-3 after a loss at eventual Class S state champ Coginchaug
in late December.
One of the things that is great about a season, and a team sport, is the journey.
How every day - each practice, each game - is a step. How teams handle those small steps and how they respond to trying moments ultimately determines the direction of the season.
It was how the Bears handled adversity, even though it was at an early point of the season, that was the launching point for a championship season.
Coach Bob McMahon told me that the bus ride home from Coginchaug was the turning point for his team, a wake up call. And wake up the Bears most certainly did, reeling
off 17 straight wins to capture the BL titles.
The Bears will be tough again next season with Maggie Eberhardt, Sydney Keith and Abby Hurlbert back and undoubtedly motivated to use this season as motivation ater
falling to Portland in the Class S quarters for the third straight season.
There is softball season so there is one more season to watch a Stolle star at Wamogo, but an incredible run came to an end when the Warriors were knocked out of the Class S tournament in the second round.
Kerri Stolle, who was recently named All-State and who scored her 1,000th point this season, is the last in a seemingly never-ending line of sisters to star on the court for the Warriors.
Kerri became the third member of her family to score 1,000 points for Wamogo and she did it with class and style and while playing an unselfish, heady game.
She was a pleasure to watch and while Berkshire League coaches are probably not all that sorry to see her go, area basketball fans will undoubtedly miss a kid who always seemed to play the game the right way.
Winsted was the capital of boys hoops in the BL this season as the Highlanders won the regular season title by a game.
It was Northwestern's first league title since the 1988-89 season and it might be the start of a run.
With four starters back (only Jake Plitt graduates), Northwestern should enter the season as the favorites to win the league title.
And after a run to the Class S semifinals where eventual champ Immaculate ended their season, John Stevens, Connor Guiheen, Arthur Lefevre and Mike Jeffko should be plenty motivated.
But the Highlanders won't have to look far for competition, just down the road.
Gilbert beat Northwestern three times this season and won the league tournament title. The Yellowjackeys lose a number of seniors, most notably Austin Brochu, but dynamic scoring guard Robert Skinner and Cordova will be back and are a strong tandem to build around.
Look out for Terryville as well, the 'Roos will have a trio of young guards back in Tyler Trillo, Jacob Johnson and Shea Tracy and forwards Jon Festa and Arthur Trent will be back as well.
To all the players and coaches I got to talk to and watch this season, I just want to say thanks.
It was an exciting season and I got to talk to alot of great kids and colorful coaches.
It was a blast and I expect it to be even better next season.

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