By Andy Hutchison

Making a run for both the FCIAC Tournament championship and Division II State crown highlighted a magical season for the Staples High boys basketball team this winter.

Looking back on this success might be tough for the Wreckers immediately in the wake of a season-ending loss in Sunday’s state title game, but look back to the start of the year and it makes the last few months seem satisfying on the whole.

Asked about his goals for the season back in December, first-year Staples Coach David Goldshore told the Westport Journal that he wanted to see improvement from day one until the last game. 

Left photo: Sam Clachko and the Wreckers won 21 games overall this season, including six playoff tilts, before falling Sunday in the Division II state championship game. At right: Will Holleman is fouled during Staples’ state title game against top seed St. Bernard High on Sunday.

Goldshore also said he believed the Wreckers could accomplish some great things.

Fast-forward to March 19, and Goldshore’s crew, seeded seventh in the state bracket, was one of the last two teams standing in Connecticut Division II boys basketball.

The Wreckers had their best display of basketball to get to the state’s pinnacle game with an amazing fourth-quarter comeback that saw the underdogs claw back from an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter and shock No. 3 Fairfield Warde 57-55 in the state semifinal last Wednesday.

Talk about accomplishing great things.

This came after the Wreckers went on the road and upset No. 2 Holy Cross of Waterbury 61-47 in the quarterfinals.

But the magic wore off in the championship game as St. Bernard High of Uncasville, the top seed, averted the Wrecker upset train with a 63-50 title-contest victory at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Wreckers got 12 points and 12 rebounds from Chris Zajac, 10 points from Sam Clachko and five assists from Adam Udell in the finale.

Despite the disappointing end to the season, the Wreckers had plenty to be pleased with, They went 15-5 during the regular slate, competing in the tough FCIAC, and went on to post 21 victories overall with their postseason success.

Goldshore’s team, seeded No. 4 in the FCIAC, avenged a one-point loss to Wilton with a victory over the Warriors in the FCIAC tourney quarterfinals. Then, the Wreckers took care of top-seed Ridgefield in the semis. That run ended when the Danbury Hatters claimed the conference crown.

It was Staples’ first appearance in the FCIAC championship tilt. The team did win the FCIAC title back in 1962-63 when the regular season winner was declared the champ, before tournament play was instituted.

Entering state tourney play, Staples regrouped and posted wins on home court over Manchester and RHAM to get the state tournament ball rolling and fueling the momentum that helped the Wreckers upset both Holy Cross and Fairfield Warde.

Staples will lose several key players to graduation this spring, including captains Charlie Honig, Gavin Rothenberg, Chris Zajac and Cody Sale, as well as Ethan Cukier, Will Holleman, Charlie Honig, Ryland Noorily and Ty Levine.

The freshmen, sophomores and juniors will come back having gained exposure to one heck of a great postseason showing.

“While not the outcome we were hoping for, having an opportunity to compete for two championships was an incredible thrill for our program,” Goldshore said.

“We won 21 games this year — the most in school history. They represented Staples High School and the town of Westport with pride and set the standard for the future of Wrecker basketball,” the coach added.

Andy Hutchison has been covering school sports — including Staples athletics — as well as news and feature stories in Fairfield County, since the 1990s. Learn more about us here.