DALTON, Mass. -- The hardest decision for coaches on the Pittsfield Unified Basketball program came before the Generals' began their inaugural season.
"We had nine athletes sign up, and we had 40 partners, if you can believe that," Pittsfield assistant coach Michelle Clement said after the Generals dropped a 59-42 decision at Wahconah in Friday's debut.
"So we picked seniors and kids who signed up first. It was just an amazing outpouring of support."
Eric Vega scored the first points in the history of Pittsfield's program early in the first quarter, and the Generals played nearly even with the more experienced Wahconah team in the second half after giving up a 16-point half-time lead on the road.
Sam Iovieno scored 24 points to lead Wahconah, which got 12 from Helen Jamrog and six from Cam Catelotti. Hayden Robb had some good looks in the paint and did a strong job moving the ball up the floor for his squad.
Liam Wheeler scored 17 for the hosts, including a fourth-quarter 3-pointer.
Benedicta Bonsu scored 18 to lead Pittsfield, beating the buzzer in the fourth quarter with a bucket in the lane to provid e the final margin.
Vega finished with 10 points. Daryn Witherell, Jake Bassi and Jonathan Seddon each scored four for the Generals, who also got a bucket from Valeysha Pereira. Rosa Baez and David Castenaro rounded out the athlete roster for PHS.
Unified Sports are a program of the Special Olympics that, at the high school level, allows students with and without disabilities to compete side by side in their school colors.
Wahconah is one of the originators of the program in Berkshire County and already has a state championship in Unified Track and Field under its belt.
This fall, Pittsfield joins Wahconah and Mount Greylock in putting Unified Basketball teams on the floor. Hoosac Valley has competed in Unified Track in the past.
"We tried for a while to get the team up and running," Pittsfield coach Todd Eddy said. "And then COVID hit. We've had an uphill battle.
"And it's up and running. Everyone at Pittsfield is so supportive and has gotten us everything we've needed."
Both Clement and Eddy said it has been inspiring to see the PHS students all working together to form a team.
"It's an amazing experience," Eddy said. "The partners, the athletes, everyone just out here having a good time, the bonding, the relationships. To be out here on the court at the schools, to be out here on the real athletic court is just amazing for the kids to play."
Wahconah coach Collin Parrott has had that experience for a couple of years as an assistant coach. This year, he has guided the squad to a 2-0 start after last week's win over Mount Greylock and Friday's victory, the first since moving over from the old Wahconah Regional High School.
"It's a lot of fun," Parrott said. "These kids have obviously gone through a whole pandemic of a lot of different changes, and it's tough for them. Coming into a new gym with all their families and a lot of the students here watching them and cheering them on, it's incredible.
"And you could see how much they love it."