Hard to say goodbye: St. Joe's basketball competes in last home game

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PITTSFIELD — With the clock ticking down during the last ever St. Joe boys basketball home game, senior Mike Gingras took the ball from well behind the 3-point line. He collected himself and fired a shot toward the basket. He held the follow through, the rotation was perfect, but the shot missed everything, bouncing out of bounds and returning possession back to Monument Mountain. After the shot, Gingras left to a standing ovation. He hugged his teammates as he headed off the court. He sat on the bench and wiped his eyes with his jersey, as the realization that the end of the St. Joe program clearly began to sink it.

Before the game, former St. Joe players and alumni gathered along the east sideline of the gym. Nearly every former Crusader was adorned in St. Joe letterman jackets and purple, black and gold apparel.

As more former Crusaders entered the gym, they began to share stories of yesteryear, reminiscing about the past while acknowledging the sadness surrounding the day.

Longtime St. Joe coach Matt Stracuzzi spoke of coming to the Boys and Girls Club in the mid '70s and watching star guard Mickey Mahoney on the old wooden bleachers as part of capacity crowd.

Current Lenox girls basketball coach Mike Nykorchuck spoke of the heated debates that still take place on where his 1981 Western Mass. champion St. Joe team would rank among the all-time great teams in school history had they been able to play in the state tournament after it was cancelled for two years due to Proposition 2 1/2 .

Each storyteller beamed with pride while speaking of their alma mater, but after the final buzzer sounded, a mixture of pride and sadness lingered in the gym.

The school might be closing in June, but the memories that came out of the school on Maplewood Avenue will live on in the minds of those that graced its hallowed halls.

Reach sports writer Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252 or @TheAkeemGlaspie.

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