Connecticut High School Basketball: A Love Story

This weekend, we would have been crowning new boys and girls state basketball champions and this year it was set to be dedicated in honor of two of the biggest high school basketball fans in the state. Now, because of coronavirus concerns, there is no tournament but this season was already a break from a longstanding tradition for the two honorees.

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In Connecticut high school basketball, there’s always one way to tell if your team has the best matchup of the night.

”When you'd see them here, you knew it was a big game,” said Glastonbury boys basketball coach Jim Vaughn.

"You knew you was made once you saw them,” Ken Smith, head coach of the Windsor Boys team said.

All you had to do was look at center court.

”Many coaches have said, ‘you know, I see you out there and when I get my kids in after warmups I say 'do you see who’s out there?'"

Two people, one name: FrankandSheila. The first couple of Connecticut basketball. They had it down to a science: pick the games, pack a lunch, and get out there early. A tradition started in 1971, when Frank's brother played basketball at Suffield High School.

”We started with 20 games, plus a few more and then we moved it up to 30, and 50 and 70 and now the 125 that we go to now,” said Frank Beneski.

Every night there was a game, there’d be Frank and Sheila.

”I would pick the games but if I picked two or three clunkers in a row she's say, ‘I'll pick the next game.’”

It’s the dedication that earned them the dedication of this year’s CIAC State High School Basketball Tournament.  

But the Beneski's season never got a chance to start. Sheila was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic cancer in September. Frank spent the start of the season caring for his wife of 55 years. She passed away on January 17, 2020.

Before Frank could bring himself to go to another basketball game, he was overwhelmed by tributes from teams, showing him how much Sheila was loved.

Frank returned to games before the season was cut short, but even if he hadn’t, a seat at center court for him and Sheila is always saved in any gym.

“Sheila can walk into a gym and light it up with her smile,” said Frank. “She loved the game.”

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