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Darrow beats Berkshire School in boys basketball Battle of the Berkshires

SHEFFIELD — The first round in what both coaches hope will become a prep school “Battle of the Berkshires,” goes to Darrow School.

“This feels really good,” Darrow coach Assane Sene said after the Ducks beat Berkshire School, 69-53, Wednesday at Berkshire School. “Jeff [Depelteau] is a great coach. He’s doing a phenomenal job here. It’s always good to play against the neighbor teams.”

Mo Sylla, a 6-foot-3 sophomore from New York, had a game-high 25 points — 11 in the second half — as Darrow held off several late runs by the Bears, posting its seventh straight win. It was the first of what both coaches hope will be an annual affair.

“Assane and I have been talking about playing this one for a couple of years and it finally worked out. We’ll return the game [in New Lebanon, N.Y.] next year,” Depelteau said. “It makes so much sense. We’re so close. Andy [Andrew Vadnais], the head of school at Darrow, his wife actually works at Berkshire. We both started the same year and started talking about getting the game started.”

With the win, Darrow improves to 11-6. Berkshire falls to 2-12.

The Ducks, are a New England Prep School Athletic Conference Class AA team and Berkshire is a Class A team.

Berkshire has a put a large number of players into NESCAC schools. One, Matt DeVine, will be attending Williams next year. Berkshire is the alma mater of Amherst College’s Noah Helmke, who started his high school career at Monument Mountain. Berkshire is also the alma mater of former URI player Abdul Fox and Marquette’s Roney Eford.

Off of this year’s team, guard Kam Rodriguez is going to play at Colby while Braden Donovan will play football at Amherst.

Darrow hasn’t been producing college-level players at the same extent, yet. Gabe Spinelli, who graduated last June, is a freshman at Division I Evansville. He’s the first of what Sene and the school hope to be more and more players coming out of the NEPSAC Class AA school.

Sene himself is a former Division I player. The 7-footer played at South Kent (Conn.) School before playing four seasons at the University of Virginia. He was recruited by former coach Dave Leitao and played his final two seasons for current coach Tony Bennett.

On Wednesday it was as close to a wire-to-wire victory as one could have.

Sylla scored on a pullup jumper from the left elbow on the game’s first shot, giving the Ducks a 2-0 lead. DeVine, who had 21 points to lead the Bears, answered to tie the game. Darrow’s Kerv Blanc started a 10-2 run over the next two minutes when he hit a mid-range, fadeaway jumper. The 6-foot-7 forward from Boston had eight points but a game-high 11 rebounds. The Ducks outrebounded the Bears 37-32.

“Our physicality really helped us,” Sene said. “The Berkshire team is very young, but they play really well together. They play hard. They don’t give up on any play. We had to get out of our comfort zone and bring our ‘A’ game, get some deflections and push the lead.”

The end of the 10-2 run was a hoop by Sylla, who is as of now still uncommitted. When he made the hoop, Depelteau called time out.

Trading hoops, Darrow went up 21-13 when Anvick Das curled around a screen and scored. That caused Depelteau to call a second time out. This time, the Bears responded.

Devon Hanavan, a former Monument player, hit a 3-pointer to start an 8-0 run that ended when DeVine caught a pass from Kam Rodriguez and hit a three of his own to tie he game at 21-21. DeVine had four triples in the game.

A stop for Berkshire would have been optimal. Instead, Darrow’s Leo Pelzer scored on a deep 3-pointer and the Ducks never trailed again.

Twice late in the half, Berkshire cut the lead to 3-points, but Darrow closed up the half with a 6-0 run. The final hoop of the half came when Darrow’s Jonathan Gurrier stripped Max Alberts of the ball and took it to the hoop for two. That made it 39-30 at intermission.

“We really had to move the ball,” said Sylla, “and just work as a team. Our game plan was to stick together and just be the team that we are.”

The visitors from New Lebanon stormed out in the second half, outscoring Berkshire 12-2 — or 18-2 if the end of the first half is included. Darrow led 51-32 after the run ended, and the rest was pretty academic.

“It was pretty frustrating,” said DeVine, who also had seven rebounds for the Bears. “Basketball is a game of runs. They’d go on a run, we’d go on a run. When we’d go on a run, they’d kind of get it back. When they went on a run and we can’t stop it, it gets a little frustrating.”

Farouk Kabe had 12 points and five rebounds for Darrow, while teammate Gurrier had 11 points and five rebounds.

For Berkshire, Rodriguez had 11 points and former Monument player Connor Hanavan had 10 points and shared rebounding honors with DeVine, pulling down seven boards.

Darrow will be playing a game in Pittsfield on Feb. 8, at 4:30, hosting New England prep power Brewster Academy at the Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires.

“We’re very excited,” Sylla said. “We’re going to come to work.”



Kaba 4-3-12, Gurrier 4-23-11, Kourouma 2-0-4, Blanc 3-2-8, Das 3-0-6, Pelzer 1-0-3, Sylla 9-4-25. Totals 26-12-69.


Rodriguez 3-5-11, DeVine 6-5-21, D. Hanavan 1-0-3, Alberts 1-0-3, C. Hanavan 3-4-10, Donovan 1-1-3, Kulerovic 1-0-2. Totals 16-15-53.

Halftime: Darrpw. 39-30. 3-point baskets: Darrow 3 (Kaber, Pelzer, Sylla). Berkshire 6 (DeVine 4, D. Hanavan, Alberts).

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253.


Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.

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