With many of the successful athletic teams and clubs in attendance to honor the best and brightest at Staples, the atmosphere could not have been any better. Hordes of parents, students, and community members packed into the Staples gym to watch the Staples boys’ basketball team take on the Hilltoppers of Bridgeport Central.
What began with promise and excitement ended with misery and embarrassment. The Wreckers ended up on the wrong side in their opening game as they got thumped 83-38. The loss was certainly not the way that Coach Colin Devine envisioned the season beginning.
“Our inexperience proved to hurt us in the long run of that game. We really struggled rebounding the basketball.”
Luckily for Staples, their season did not end the way it started. Finishing with a record of 10-10 in the FCIACs, the Wreckers nearly made the playoffs.
From the way they played on opening night, the Wreckers would have never guessed that they would be in playoff contention by season’s end. And yet the seeds were planted when, after suffering a 45-point defeat, the Wreckers were able to maintain a positive attitude in the locker room. As Devine saw that the season could quickly spin out of control, he made a vow to the players.
“I told the guys that what we can take out of this game is [that] we need to work twice as hard if we are going to keep pace in the FCIAC.”
Just one month later, with only two wins in their first seven games, the Wreckers were fading fast. To keep their slim playoff hopes alive, Staples squared off against another contending FCIAC team, the Trumbull Golden Eagles.
Luke Yeager led the scoring attack with 19 points, propelling Staples to a 66-60 victory. The Wreckers finally clicked on offense with four out of five starters scoring in double figures. For Yeager, this was a pivotal moment.
“We only had two wins before that to teams that aren’t that good. This game was a huge win for us,” said Yeager.
The Wreckers would go on to win five out of their next eight games.
But the most thrilling moment in the Wreckers’ surge of success came on the road against the defending FCIAC champion, the Stamford Knights. The Knights came into the game hot, winning six of their last eight, and had lost only three times the entire season.
The Wreckers let none of this faze them as they marched right into Stamford High School and came away victorious. Behind Gabe Seidman’s 34-point performance, the Wreckers scored five points in the final minute to send the game into overtime and pulled out a 76-70 victory in the extra session. Point guard Frankie Bergonzi ‘11 described this game as critical.
“It was the first time we beat one of the premier teams in the league. Any time Staples beats the defending FCIAC champions, it’s a big deal,” Bergonzi said.
Tied with Greenwich for the eighth spot in the FCIAC playoffs on Feb. 12, the Wreckers were in for quite a showdown when they welcomed their fiercest rivals into town. Trailing by as many as 20 points in the first half, the Wreckers stormed all the way back to tie things up in the third quarter. That was when things started to get interesting.
Starting with a hard foul from Bergonzi, players from both teams began to brawl, leading to the ejection of Cardinal center Al Alzulphar. But the Cardinals proved to be too much to handle in the end with strong post play dictating the fourth quarter.
While they came out on the wrong side of this one, Bergonzi said he realized that this game will be one of the best he will ever play in.
“The Greenwich game was by far the best environment I’ve ever played in. Our fans were unbelievable and I don’t know if I’ve ever played in a more intense game.”
From the laughingstock of the FCIAC, the Wreckers were molded by Coach Devine into legitimate contenders and a team that will certainly wreak havoc in the league for years to come.
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One interesting note: The Central blowout was actually a win. The Hilltoppers forfeited later in the season, because they used an ineligible player. The Staples players were actually a bit embarrassed when they found out their L would turn into a W.