| Sarah Heinonen
EAST LONGMEADOW – Down by 10 points at the end of the third quarter against Northampton’s St. Michael’s High School, the longshot Spartans of East Longmeadow High School (ELHS) rallied and won the Boys Basketball Western Mass. Small School Tournament with a score of 61-53.
Doug Brega clearly remembers that day in 1966 when he, his twin brother Dave Brega and the rest of his team brought home the win for ELHS. Whenever Brega visited the school’s gymnasium in the years since, however, he wondered why there was no banner for his team among the school’s other celebrated championships.
“We were underdogs,” Brega said. “We weren’t such a big team.” However, the 1966 Spartans managed to work their way to the tournament at Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst. Brega recalled that he and his brother didn’t make too many shots, but still played pivotal roles on the team. “We got the rebounds and handed them over,” he explained.
Despite being behind and losing their top scorer, Brian Kennedy, to a head injury and later foul, the team reversed their fortunes and won. The team was inducted into the East Longmeadow Athletics Hall of Fame for the tournament win. That tournament was one of the last, as the competition was rebranded a few years later.
After graduation, Brega attended Quinnipiac University where, he said, being 6-foot-1 made him shorter than other basketball players, and he “lost interest” in the game.
Brega has been back to ELHS plenty of times. His daughters later attended the school. Now, his two grandsons are going there. They are the reason Brega decided to secure a banner for his team after 56 years.
“I want to make them proud,” he said.
The Brega brothers, along with former teammates Brian Kennedy and Michael Raschilla, got together and bought a banner from Whip’s Sporting Goods in Springfield, the business where ELHS gets all their championship banners. “I wanted it to look exactly like the other [banners],” Brega explained of the rectangular red cloth with light gray lettering and border.
The banner was installed in early May. Brega said the high school was very excited about it and he donated pictures of the championship game to the school.
Brega laughed, “My grandson said, ‘You know you’re kind of a celebrity at school?’” Celebrity or not, Brega is just happy that his team finally has a place of honor alongside the other ELHS athletic champions.