Are “cage dreams” ending?
Photo by Dave Johnson
When Berkshire County high-school basketball players dream of “getting to the cage,” they mean Curry Hicks Cage, an iconic basketball arena built in 1931 and usually the site of semi-final and final rounds of the Western Massachusetts boys and girls tournaments. When teams earn a place in the playoffs, big yellow school buses roll east to UMass-Amherst where the atmosphere inside is electric. Teams accustomed to playing in high school gyms find themselves in a cavernous building under bright lights, with high bleachers rising on all sides. A few hundred fans with cheerleaders and a pep band or two make the excitement palpable.
Sadly, cage dreams may be ending. The university moved its games to larger quarters two decades ago and the completion of a new basketball practice facility on campus likely means that Curry Hicks Cage will be repurposed for other sports, forcing the tournament to find a new home. Fans can get a final look at the Cage March 5-10 when championship games are played.
Generations of players and coaches have heaped loving praise on the old throwback arena. Hoosac Valley girls coach Ron Wojcik realized the thrill of playing there when he said that getting to the Cage is, “like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” Tara Dooley, with the Lee High School team as it won its 19th Western Massachusetts title, spoke lovingly of the Cage, calling it a “second home” for her team. Next season, teams will still ride the yellow buses in search of basketball glory, but it will be to less colorful arenas and somehow it just won’t be the same.