Sitting behind him in the front row of the stands are a group of youth players known as the Thomaston Trotters.
In the middle of that group is a fourth-grade Emma Kahn, now a starting senior guard on the team.
For as long as Kahn can remember, she has wanted to wear the brown and gold and get a chance to bring her own team to the Sun.
Unfortunately, last season was halted with Thomaston in the CIAC Class S quarterfinals and this season there will be no state tournament due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“That hurts a lot.” Kahn said. “Seeing that it got taken away from us and not being able to finish last season, hurt so much. It made us work that much harder to prove to everyone that even without the state tournament, we can still show we are good.”
Thomaston has certainly shown they are good this season.
The Bears are unbeaten at 9-0 and have clinched the Berkshire League regular-season title by running through every team in the league.
This year due to COVID-19 changes to the schedules, it was determined that the Berkshire title would be decided by the first run through each team. Thomaston beat every team in the league and is now playing some teams for a second time with no out-of-conference games scheduled.
After beating Northwestern 54-29 Saturday in the league-clinching game, the Bears cut down the nets.
“Every team has the dream of winning championships and this team had a very good possibility of achieving it,” McMahon said. “For a kid like Emma (Kahn), I can’t speak for her, but knowing what she grew up wanting to do I know it hurts. The two years she really separated herself from the crowd, we don’t have a state tournament. We cut the nets down when we won the Berkshire League. One of the quotes from Emma after the game was ‘we have been waiting to cut these nets down since fourth grade.’”
Along with Kahn, who has been arguably the best player in the Berkshire League and is worthy of all-state consideration, the team goes 8 or 9 deep and has been getting contributions from everyone who steps on the floor.
Rounding out the starting five are juniors Sydney Eggleton, a center, Emma Sanson, a forward, and guard Aurelia Barker and freshman point guard Nicole Decker.
As a small school in Litchfield County, Thomaston has established itself as a state powerhouse over the last decade.
In the last 12 seasons, the Bears are 223-59 with seven 20-plus win seasons; 8 regular-season Berkshire titles; 7 tournament titles, including six-straight and five-straight Class S championship game appearances from 2012-2017, winning in 2014 and 2015.
That could be why some have labeled the last few seasons as “down years” though McMahon scoffs at that notion.
“We’ve had a fortunate cycle of girls and families that just keep coming through,” McMahon said. “We haven’t really hit a down cycle. People might say the last three years were average but we have always been around .500 and near the top of the league. For those to be our ‘down years,’ sign me up.”
The 2021 version might have been the best of any of them though McMahon refuses to compare teams from different years.
But consider this, the Bears are going for the first unbeaten record in school history and are winning games by an average of 32 points, allowing an unheard of 19.3 points a game, including holding two opponents under 10. No team had scored 30 points on them all year until Shepaug Valley got 33 this week in a 62-33 win for Thomaston.
“I think the BL title is something we didn’t accomplish last year and we knew we needed to step up our game to do this year,” Eggleton said. “Coming into the season we were not really sure with everything going on what the season would be. We wanted to prove our point and we knew we weren’t getting a state tournament, which is unfortunate. BLs is where it was at and we have been working really hard for that goal.”
The 2010 Thomaston team was undefeated in the regular season but lost in the Class S quarterfinals to eventual runner-up Portland.
Those teams of the past have always been an inspiration to the today’s players and something they hope younger players today see in them.
“We always watched their games and looked up to the girls. Even as we got older, we starter becoming close with some of the top players,” Eggleton said. “To be part of that and everything those teams experienced is super exciting. I think we have been doing a good job keeping that going and having the younger players in town looking up to us.”
Though there has been less contact between them this season, most of the players on the current team took part in the Thomaston Trotters which allowed young players to work with varsity players in clinics and perform ball-handling exhibitions at halftime of varsity games.
It is a small-town tradition in Thomaston that any team reaching a state final in any sport, is sent off with a bus ride through downtown with people waving from the sidewalks and, win or lose, a return trip through the heart of Thomaston.
Many of the current players stood on those sidewalks waving, establishing for them an incredible sense of community tied to the team.
“We still feel the community support, even if they can’t be at the games this year,” Kahn said. “Some of them will send us clips from the live stream to show us they are watching. Thomaston basketball has been a program everyone in town has enjoyed supporting. We feel that support. There are articles in the newspaper and people come up to you in town and congratulate you. It means a lot and you get that feeling of a small-town environment.”