That 'Championship' Season: Wahconah Girls Complete Quest for Perfection
DALTON, Mass. -- What was going through the mind of Wahconah girls basketball coach Liz Kay as she welcomed her seniors when they each subbed out in the closing minutes of Saturday's season finale?
"Those three kids were 80 pounds soaking wet freshman year," Kay said. "They were so little."
And they came up really big in the final game of their stellar careers.
Maria Gamberoni and Morgan Marauszwski each scored 21 points -- the latter on seven 3-pointers -- and Noelle Furlong scored 12 as Wahconah beat Pittsfield, 75-14, in the final girls varsity basketball game at Ed Ladley Gymnasium.
Saturday was all about "lasts" at Wahconah, where organizers put together emotional ceremonies with guest speakers from the school's history before both girls and boys junior varsity and varsity games.
For Kay and her trio of seniors, there was another big "last" that happened out of the limelight: Friday's practice.
"I told them: The only time you know when your last practice is is if you don’t make the tournament or you’re in the state championship, so this is our state championship," Kay said.
"We did some game prep, and then it was just: Enjoy every second of it. Let’s play some games, have some fun."
Whatever they did, it worked.
Wahconah came out in the first quarter like it was shot out of a cannon, taking a 19-0 lead with just more than three minutes gone in the first quarter.
It was 30-6 at the end of the first quarter and 43-6 at half-time.
Gamberoni scored 13 points in the first quarter, and Marauszski knocked down a pair of her triples in the first eight minutes.
Furlong said the team was highly motivated to finish its run at perfection.
"Going into the season, we didn’t think we were able to get to play in a Western Mass Championship," she said. "I feel like finishing undefeated is the same winning feeling. And that was our goal when we found out we wouldn’t have a championship game. It feels like we won a championship game."
And, as a bonus, they got to win that championship in their home gymnasium.
"It’s really sad that this gym is getting torn down because my dad played here, my aunt and uncle played here, a lot of my friends played here," Furlong said. "It feels very special being the last team to play here. I’m excited for the new school, but it is sad that they’re tearing this place down."
Pittsfield's girls may not be as sad to see it go after Saturday's game. Leighana Williamson and Maddy Creamer score three apiece to lead the Generals, who were playing just their third game this winter after waiting longer than schools like Wahconah to get the go-ahead to start a winter season.
Pittsfield still has a week of games ahead of it, starting with Sunday's date against rival Taconic at the Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires.
For Wahconah, Saturday marked the end of a very busy two months ... and the end of more than that for Kay and a very special senior class.
"Everybody on this team roots for them," Kay said. "And everybody gets along and everybody is humble. And everyone is selfless, and everyone buys into defense and all the things that I can preach, but those three are the ones who carry the load for what we’ve been able to do. I’m just so thankful to have kids who buy in and believe in themselves as much as I do. They’ve given me that for four years.
"I’m just going to miss them. And I’m not even sad basketball is over, honestly. I don’t see them everyday. And that hurts a lot. That’s what they were saying when they came out: We don’t get to go to practice tomorrow. And who likes to go to practice, right? That’s pretty cool."