After you find your seats at Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday and settle in for the boys Class M championship game, take a look behind the Weaver bench.
You won’t see the largest fan section or even the loudest, but it may be the most dedicated.
From the first game of the Central Connecticut Conference tournament in Middletown to the Class M finals and everywhere in between, the Beaver faithful has been their to support their team and their community.
“You look in our stands and see a player’s grandparents,” said Weaver coach Reggie Hatchett, after the Beavers Class M semifinal win over Lewis Mills in New Britain. “We have a lot of older people in our community who went to Weaver, who remember the school as a vibrant 2,000 student school that we used to be and they’re so happy to have this life brought back into the school, because of everything that’s been going on in our community.”
The Weaver community in Hartford has gone through a lot this year, more than any high school ever should. Some with the team and others with the school and surrounding areas.
The Beavers struggled out of the gate, winning their first game against Bulkeley, but then dropping the next two to Wethersfield and Capital Prep. To make matters worse, the team was forced to forfeit their next two games after they self-reported an incident on Jan. 9 where then coach Charles Silvan used an ineligible player during two victories over Granby and South Windsor. Silvan was suspended by the school for the rest of the season. Freshman/junior varsity coach Reggie Hatchett took the job on an interim basis.
Since Jan. 29 when Hatchett took over the varsity program, the Beavers have gone 14-2, including a CCC tournament title and now a Class M title game appearance. He has not only got the team on track on the court, but is enforcing team rules.
Freshman brothers Jaecee and Chaylynn Martin were forced to sit out the first quarter of the Lewis Mills game after they were late to school.
Then there was the “threatening” to close the school.
Over the last few months there has been a lot of talk as to whether Weaver High School is closing. At a recent Board of Education meeting it was stated that Weaver is not closing, it’s just looking to be moved for a few years while the $100 million renovation project takes place. This would temporarily move the school’s culinary arts program to Lincoln Culinary Institute. It then will be moved back in time for the start of the 2017-2018 school year.
The actual problem is the enrollment numbers.
Weaver is zoned for roughly 2,000 students and used to have around that many, years ago. Today, the school enrolls about 550 students between the two specialized programs, the Culinary Arts Academy and the Journalism and Media Academy, which was moved out of the building to a new space on Tower Ave. last year.
The school may have gotten smaller over the years, but the pride and support is still there.
“It’s going to be amazing, just to get a championship for our community, with all the things that happened, it’s going to be real special for all of us,” KeAndre Fair said.
To make things even tougher on the Weaver community, on Feb. 10, Walter “Doc” Hurley died.
The Hartford legend meant a lot to the state, but even more to the Weaver community. Before the Weaver girls semifinal game vs. Farmington, Wendell Williams mentioned that his team had dedicated their season to “Doc” and were playing the rest of the season in his honor. Then Monday, Doc’s daughter, Muriel Hurley took her own life. That night the boys team traveled to Colchester to play Bacon Academy, with heavy hearts, as some of the players knew Muriel personally.
“Somebody who was kind to them, who’s not really somebody they see all the time, to know that she was just at our last game, kind of hit them like ‘wow,’ that she was so depressed that she took her own life, shook everybody up,” Hatchett said.
Now the Weaver boys basketball team prepares for its biggest game yet, the Class M state championship. It may be a familiar setting for some, but not most.
“They’re very motivated, ironically, there’s not a lot of guys on the team that played last year,” Hatchett said. “We had a lot of seniors that played and experienced that heartache, but the majority of our team are first-year sophomores and freshmen. They still witnessed it, they still feel the sting of it, especially my senior captain Josh Jones, because he injured his leg last year. A lot of us feel like the game may have been different had he been available. This is his opportunity to play in the casino, because he was there last year with crutches.”
The usual starting lineup for Weaver includes two freshmen, Jaecee and Chaylynn Martin, a sophomore in Fair and two seniors, Jones and Pishon Powell, who Hatchett has referred to as the “good luck charm.”
“It makes me happy to get a second chance at it, I know we’re going to go out there and get it,” Jones said.
The Beavers lost to Granby Memorial in last year’s title game, 83-81 in two overtimes.
Weaver plays CCC foe East Catholic at 12:30 on Saturday.
“To play a familiar foe like East Catholic, you don’t want to really play the same team over and over again, they start learning you,” Hatchett said. “The first time a team sees our type of defense, it kind of catches you off guard, but if you’ve played us a few times, you get familiar with it, practiced against it, the fear is gone. It’s going to be an interesting match up with East Catholic.”
Tale of the Tape
This year’s boy’s Class M title game features two teams from the Central Connecticut Conference. Who has the edge? Here’s the breakdown.
No. 3 East Catholic
Notable wins: Windsor (58-57), East Hartford (87-89 OT)
Top players: Winston Morgan, Sr., G, 5-11; Tyrell Arnum, Sr., F, 6-6
Notable stats: Won 13 of 16 games since starting 5-3 and three of five regular season losses came to state finalists (Weaver-2, Windsor).
State titles: 3 (1965, 1968, 1972)
You should know: Split season series with Class L finalist Windsor.
No. 12 Weaver
Notable wins: 2 East Catholic (83-74, 76-74), East Hartford (76-54), Windsor (71-69)
Top players: KeAndre Fair, So., G, 6-1; Josh Jones, Sr., G, 5-6; Jaecee Martin, Fr., G, 5-8
Notable stats: 14-2 since Reggie Hatchett took over as head coach and winning by an average of 24.07 points.
State titles: 7 (1954, 1956, 1957, 1971, 1991, 2002, 2007)
You should know: Has played one true home game since the postseason started.