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Girls Basketball wins New England title

The Wilbraham & Monson Academy Girls Basketball team lost in the New England Prep School Athletic Council Class C championship in 2023.

In 2024, the Titans were not going to let that happen again.

Wearing pink uniforms and supported by a large WMA fan presence, Coach Durelle Brown and his Titans pulled away from Brewster Academy of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, in the second half to win the NEPSAC Class C title with a convincing 55-39 victory.

It was the first New England Girls Basketball championship in school history.

“We have chased this goal for nine long years, and here we are, we are champions,” Coach Brown beamed. “And that moment when I got to hoist ‘Chip’ - that is what we call our championship trophy - it was better than I ever imagined through all of these years.

“This group of nine players, two managers and three coaches, is a family. We spent a ton of time together to build what we had this year. And now we are bonded for life with this team accomplishment. We have an amazing group of girls: selfless, smart, funny, hard working and tough. And I could not be prouder to be the lucky guy who coaches WMA girls hoops at this fine institution that I call home.”

As if winning a first title in school history wasn’t emotional enough, this was even more so. Coach Brown’s biggest supporter – his mom, Anita - unexpectedly passed away in March of 2023.

“It is extremely hard to win this first title for our program and our school, and my biggest fan is not here to celebrate it with me,” explained Coach Brown, whose team fell to Hamden Hall Country Day School of Hamden, Connecticut, in the 2023 final. “But I remember when we won our fifth game in a row, and I looked at our schedule and counted the wins if we ran the table, and the number was 15 straight wins.

“I lost my mom on March 15, 2023. Then we kept winning. I knew at that point my mom was with us, guiding us and so proud to watch us. #TeamGrandma. So for me, this championship is powerful.”

One hiccup aside, the entire season was powerful for the Academy. The team opened 7-1, including a win at the Kingswood Invitational Tournament in December. The bump came when the team returned from break, going 2-3. WMA, however, was starting to click. The Titans closed out the regular season on a 12-game winning streak, capped by a double-digit win against one of the Academy’s biggest rivals.

“The Suffield win at Suffield … we won the biggest game of the season up to that point, a rivalry game, on the road in a hostile environment, against a NEPSAC Class B tournament team playing for seeding, and we won going away, 64-52,” Coach Brown said.

“It was a dominant performance by several individuals, and our whole team collectively. It gave them a pseudo feeling of invincibility, but not arrogance. It proved to them that if they believe in themselves, if they believe in each other, if they believe in their coaches, and they believe in and play well in the game plan, there is not a team that can beat them. And that is a powerful feeling with the firepower that we have.”

As the top seed in the playoffs, WMA brought the firepower. The Titans rolled to an 85-24 win against No. 8 Montrose School of Medfield, Massachusetts, in a quarterfinal before topping fifth-seeded Holderness School of New Hampshire in a semifinal. Both games were at Greenhalgh Gymnasium with a loud WMA fan base.

The final was played at a neutral site: Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, Massachusetts. Despite not playing well, the pink-uniformed Titans led No. 2 Brewster 21-20 halftime. A change in defense sparked WMA’s offensive attack in the final 16 minutes.

“We went with our ‘55,’ our full-court player-to-player defense, and that changed the momentum of the game,” Coach Brown stated. “We finally sped them up the way we wanted to, and that energy converted into our energy offensively. Now all of a sudden we were clicking on both ends of the floor, and when our team is clicking, it feels like an avalanche. Hence the 15-0 run we made over the course of three minutes of the third and fourth quarters.

“My line all year with this group is, ‘When we play, it is like watching a movie.’ We have eight amazing players, and in our games we are not geared around one or two people, but the whole. So in games, all eight players have their signature moments when they have a starring portion or impact in the game. It is just so beautiful to watch.”

And it was beautiful to watch Coach Brown and the Titans hoist the first New England title in program history. The team finished 24-4 and on a 15-game winning streak.

The team included: Adela Cecunjanin ’24, Ella Chandler ’24, Abby Dorunda ’24, Hannah Grudzien ’25, Caterina Ravosa ’26, Selah Prignano ’26, Iyanna Hodge ’27 and Jala Witherspoon ’27. Kendall Washington ’26 was injured for entire season. Caterina was named MVP of the Class C final. Coach Brown was assisted by Rita Sullivan and his longtime friend Jack Casey.


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