Newton, Mass. (02/27/13) – The Great Northeast Athletic Conference honored the late Sean Bertanza by naming him to their All-Conference First Team for the 2012-13 men's basketball season. The Lasell College senior captain passed away peacefully at his home in Seymour, Conn. on December 20th.
"I think it's a highly deserved honor" said head coach Aaron Galletta, "It shows how much respect the coaches in our league had for Sean, and how special a player he was throughout his career."
Just like a great basketball player is multidimensional, so are the pieces of the story behind what was so special about Sean Bertanza and his career.
Sean Bertanza "By the Numbers"…
Bertanza ranks seventh on the Lasell College all-time scoring list, amassing 1,162 points in only 59 games. His 58 games started are the sixth most in the history of the program. He recorded 103 steals, fourth most all-time, and his 193 free throws made are also the fourth best total ever.
With a career scoring average of 19.7 points per game Bertanza boasts the second best average ever at Lasell, and his career average of 34.5 minutes per game is tops in school history.
In his sophomore year he set the school record for steals in a game with eight against Rivier, one of three single game records that bear his name.
Becoming Mr. "55"…
Three weeks later Bertanza etched his name not only into the school record books again, but also into the national spotlight with his performance at St. Joseph's College of Maine. He exploded for 55 points, on 22-32 shooting from the field, including 5-7 from three point territory and 6-7 from the free throw line. His 22 field goals made were a new school record, his 55 points were also a school record and the highest total scored in the country across all divisions that season.
Coach Galletta recounted it as "the greatest shooting performance I have ever seen."
Some people who were in Standish, Maine that afternoon will swear that as the game went on even the Monks fans were starting to cheer
Bertanza's brilliant shooting display.
It would be mythic if it weren't true…
There are plenty of stories surrounding Sean Bertanza the player and Sean Bertanza the person. It's been told that he would call out his team's defense and then turn to a teammate and ask them what defense they were playing. There are stories about how he loved competition so much that he used to bet his high school coach that he could read faster than him.
One of the most widely told stories happened Sean's junior year against Mount Ida College. Lasell had the ball with 2.7 seconds left in a tie game, and in the huddle Coach Galletta drew up a play for Bertanza to take the final shot.
As the team broke the timeout Sean turned to his coach and asked, "Whose ball is it coach?"
Galletta told his junior guard "It's our ball Sean, it's our ball."
Bertanza then calmly buried his sixth three pointer of the game at the buzzer to give Lasell the win.
The final pieces…
When Coach Galletta re-tells the story, you can sometimes make out the hint of a smile on his face when he recalls the exchange. That smile belies something more though, about the relationship between the player and coach, how much they trusted each other.
That story has been told many times over the last few months, but there is an often overlooked detail to that story. The only game in his entire Lasell career that Sean didn't start was that day against Mount Ida.
Looking to create a spark for his team after a couple of subpar performances, Galletta dared to pull his high-scoring guard from the lineup.
Bertanza closed his sophomore season averaging 31.3 points a game over the final four games of the year, and was leading the Lasers in scoring through the first six games of his junior year, and yet he found himself sitting on the bench at the start of Lasell's conference opener against a bitter rival.
He didn't sulk, he didn't question his role, he responded like Sean Bertanza. He competed. He picked up his teammates, he left everything he had on the floor, and he trusted that his coach was doing the right thing to help their team win.
Bertanza checked into the game with 13:46 left in the first half, proceeded to score 15 of his team's next 25 points while grabbing a pair of rebounds, and handing out a pair of assists. He finished with 34 points in 33 minutes, including the now legendary game-winner. More importantly his example showed his teammates what it meant to compete with the sole goal being team success.
He provided the exact response Coach Galletta knew he could expect from his ultracompetitive junior guard and helped his team understand what it meant to come together and play for each other.
Sean's competitiveness was legendary amongst his peers, and it was the thing that first referenced by opposing coaches when they spoke about him as a player. It was what set him apart on the court, it was why he always wanted the ball in big moments, and it is why he climbed to lofty heights in his time at Lasell.
The big picture...
In his sophomore year Sean Bertanza scored 55 points in a game, set three single game school records, and he had a tremendous individual season. He was named to the All-GNAC Third team in recognition for his efforts.
In his junior year he broke the 1,000 point barrier for his collegiate career, helped the men's basketball program to the fourth seed in the GNAC tournament and an appearance in the tournament semifinals and led the Lasers in scoring. These exploits led to the GNAC naming him to the All-Conference Second Team.
His senior year saw him faced with helping lead a young and developing team while playing the most difficult non-conference schedule in New England. He produced career best averages in scoring and rebounding, and he taught another generation of Laser basketball players what it means to be a competitor.
The person Sean was and the way he approached the game made a lasting impact on Lasell College and it's men's basketball program. At the end of the 2012-13 season the coaches in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference recognized those accomplishments by naming Sean Bertanza to the All-Conference First Team.