Although the Drury High School boys basketball team fell just short in its late-season push to reach the Western Massachusetts Division 2 tournament, Nolan Bird's Herculean efforts stood tall.
Bird was a leader all season long for the Blue Devils and never more so than in the last week of the season.
The senior forward had 28 points and nine rebounds in a win against Lee, 20 points and six assists in a win against Wahconah and 16 points and 13 rebounds in a loss to Division 1-tournament bound Pittsfield that left Drury at 8-10, one win short of qualifying for postseason play.
"Right from the beginning of the season, the coaching staff said that if (Bird) doesn't play well, we're going to struggle," Drury coach Jack Racette said this week. "Without him, that record would be a whole lot worse than 8-10. We're looking at 3-15 maybe.
"He puts a lof of pressure on himself."
Racette said as the team's only returning senior with significant varsity experience, Bird has been a leader on and off the court for the Devils, who return eight players off this year's roster for the 2013-14 season.
And Bird was a leader in the stat book as well, posting team highs in points per game (15.8), rebounds per game (9.3), and assists per game (3.3). After Drury opened the year 1-5, Bird scored 17 points in the team's signature win, a 48-44 upset of St. Joseph.
That victory started a run of three wins in four nights that got the Blue Devils back into playoff contention.
After beating playoff-bound Frontier in an independent game on Feb. 12, the Blue Devils needed four wins in their last five to reach the tournament. But they were dealt a crushing blow when rival Hoosac Valley beat Drury at Bucky Bullett Gymnasium to complete a season sweep.
"We played four games in six days, and it didn't start well in the Hoosac game," Racette said of the Blue Devils' February schedule, which included a makeup game rescheduled from the holiday week.
"The way he rebounded against Lee is a tribute to his leadership."