End of an era: St. Joe boys basketball falls in final home game
PITTSFIELD — Former St. Joe athlete Dan Joslyn addressed the current group of boys basketball Crusaders before the final home game in the program's history on Friday.
Joslyn spoke on what it means to be a Crusader, and how the family bond developed at the school remains with him to this day. His words resonated with the entire team, as he brings an extremely personal prospective on what it means to be a member of the Crusader family.
He told the players how the St. Joe community helped uplift him during the most difficult part of his life, after losing his brother, Ben, in an automobile accident during his junior year in 2008. He spoke about how important being a Crusader is to the large group of alumni that came to the Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires to support them.
"That was one of the most difficult periods of my life," he said. "But the family that showed up, the community that showed up. My brother was a really good football player, but he was even a better person. And kids from PHS, Taconic, St. Joe, the family atmosphere that came to his funeral, that came and made sure I was OK and that my family was OK — you can't buy that. St. Joe had a big part in it."
That spirit was on display Friday night, and it meant that the final score had little impact on the proceedings.
Before the opening tip, former St. Joe athletes took the court and joined the team for the player introductions. The Crusaders started the game playing inspired basketball. They led by two points after the first quarter, but the young team could not hold onto the lead, losing 77-56 to Monument Mountain.
The teams gathered in a circle at mid-court after the game, as Monument coach Mike Saporito wished the Crusaders well as they embark on one last Western Massachusetts tournament run. The gesture symbolized the togetherness of the Berkshire County basketball community, and senior Mike Gingras said he's enjoyed the unity that St. Joe breeds throughout his career.
"St. Joe is just a family," he said. "You walk down the halls at St. Joe and everybody know everybody. Every since St. Joe's opened it's always been a family and it's great to see. It's really sad that it's closing."
St. Joe letterman jackets and school colors lined sidelines and stretched up into the St. Joe side of the bleachers. The crowd showed its support throughout and gave the team a loud ovation as the final buzzer sounded.
As the finality of the end of an era began to sink in, longtime coach Gary Bianchi was visibly emotional as the game ended. The coach and several St. Joe supporters stayed on the court after others began to file out, talking to former players and soaking in the last moments of an era.
"It's bittersweet," he said. "The kids that I coached aren't just my players, they're my family. ... It's been my family for the last 45 years.
"It's going to be a big loss. The city doesn't realize how much they're going to miss it until its gone. It's a real special place. I've always said 'Crusader Family' and that's what it is. One big happy family."
Reach sports writer Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252 or @TheAkeemGlaspie.
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