NEW BRITAIN - Prior to Monday night’s game against Plainville, New Britain girls basketball head coach Marc Wesoly stood in front of the scorer’s table, microphone in hand, and called senior Brianna Clarke’s name.
As gold balloons with Clarke’s name and initials swayed back and forth along the railings of the bleachers filled with cheering fans and students, Clarke emerged through hanging white streamers from the hallway outside, arm-in-arm with family members while more trailed behind, holding up pictures of Clarke as the senior made her way to halfcourt to greet her coach and be honored for Senior Night alongside teammate Toni Mills.
Clarke kept a smile and embraced her fellow graduating teammate and her second-year head coach before posing for pictures. On an emotional evening, Clarke kept her composure for the main festivities, but that was only because she let the emotions flow well before the ceremony began.
“Oh I cried beforehand,” Clarke laughed after the Hurricanes’ hard-fought 64-60 loss to the Blue Devils in what was Clarke’s final home game. “When I showed up at five o’clock at the music suite, I was already crying.”
Clarke, also a member of the band that showered her with music after her name was called on Senior Night, couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the appreciation her and Mills were shown on the duo’s last night wearing their home white jerseys. A four-year player for New Britain, Clarke has said goodbye to her home supporters, and will soon do the same to her teammates when the season draws to a close.
For Clarke, again expressing plenty of emotions after Monday night’s game, her unforgettable experience as a Hurricane makes it that much harder to say farewell.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better senior year,” Clarke said, fighting back tears. “I’m just happy to be a part of this team.”
Wesoly, Clarke’s coach for the past two seasons, understands the void Clarke will leave behind stretches far beyond the hardwood, especially when it comes to someone who has made just as great an impact on the school as a whole.
“It says a lot about [Brianna],” Wesoly said of Clarke’s standing at New Britain High School. “She’s in the top 10 percent of her class, is in the band and taking AP classes … It says wonders about who she is as a person, not just a basketball player. She’s well-respected in the school and has tons of friends. She’s the tallest person in our school, so she also stands out that way.”
Even without Clarke’s unmatched height, Wesoly knows her accolades make her stand out at New Britain, which will miss her when she’s gone.
“Brianna Clarke is an outstanding person,” Wesoly said before sharing a tearful hug with Clarke outside the New Britain gym. “She’s going to go really far in life.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org