Bracci powers team to playoffs
Talk about having your back against the wall.
Wahconah Regional boys basketball player Jono Bracci and his teammates were feeling the pressure of a must-win situation in last week's season finale against Hoosac Valley.
Bracci scored 12 of his team's 39 points and hit a pair of clutch 3-point baskets to ice the Warriors' victory and earn them a berth in the Western Massachusetts Division II tournament.
For that, Bracci was voted this week's Berkshire Eagle Player of the Week.
"We started off 7-2 and things were looking pretty good at that point, and we lost six straight from there," said Bracci. "We found ourselves below .500 and everyone was kind of shocked.
"Everything was going wrong. That's when we realized that we had to get back on our horse, as [coach Ed Ladley] said, and that's when the urgency kicked in."
The urgency level was off the charts when the Warriors got on the bus Thursday to play at Hoosac Valley in the season finale.
Bracci said the losing streak also made the Warriors feel like they were in the tournament a month before the brackets were announced, because one more loss could have put Wahconah out of the tournament.
A 63-48 defeat at the hands of North Division-rival Drury on Tuesday night put the Warriors back under .500, making the win against the Hurricanes a must win.
Bracci slept late, had a pregame meal and shot baskets at the Dalton CRA before boarding the school bus for the trip up Route 8 to Cheshire.
"Once we got to the locker room to get on the bus ride over to Hoosac, everybody was locked in," Bracci said. "Our coach had a big pregame speech warmed up for us. Everyone was just ready to win."
It was a low-scoring, defensive game -- as many Wahconah victories are.
The score was 34-31 late in the fourth quarter when Nick Dargi, a co-captain along with Bracci, found his teammate with a pass and Bracci let go with a 3-ball that found its target. That turned a one-possession game into a two-possession game, and gave the Warriors enough of a cushion to win.
"I didn't score most of my points until the fourth quarter," Bracci said. "Early on, I wasn't really looking for my shots. But one of my early shots banked in, so that's kind of how things got started."
When the Warrior players come to practice, they can't help but notice the championship banners that hang in the gym. The Warriors have won five Western Mass. Division II championships since 1975, and are one of two Western Massachusetts teams to win a state championship since the state tournament was revived in 1984.
And despite being a No. 6 seed and the last team in the tournament, Bracci said his teammates would like to add to that tradition.
"We know the tradition of our school," he said. "We know the hard work that everyone puts in. We're looking to make a name for ourselves."
To reach Howard Herman:
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.