Last Thursday nights Pittsfield basketball tournament was one of the most exciting basketball games I have ever seen. In a thrilling finals finish, our 9th grade boys team won 59-57 against Brant Lake Camp. With the clock winding down Brant’s last shot to to win fell short and the buzzer sounded. A sea of orange and black gushed out onto the court with cheers and celebration. It was an incredible night of sports and camp spirit.
“Pittsfield” as we call this tournament has grown to have an epic life of it’s own. So much so, that you may have heard your child (baller or not) talk about Pittsfield or chant it’s name. Have you ever wondered why we call a basketball tournament at Camp Lenox (located in Otis) The Pittsfield Tournament? I’m sure you will say – “umm not really, but now that you mention it, why would you give the tournament such an unfitting name?”
Well, let me explain. There is a deep Camp Lenox history to this storied tournament. Let’s go back in time to the year 1965. A young camp director by the name of Monty “Coach” Moss had just bought Camp Lenox the year before. As a former college basketball player and High School coach he envisioned a large western Mass. basketball tournament for all the camps in the area.
The tournament would have 2 age brackets 14.6 years old and under and 16.6 years old and under. Tournaments were a rarity in those days and most competitive games were simple inter-camp events between 2 camps. So, this concept was a novel idea for the camps in the area. Coach knew that the YMCA in the city of Pittsfield had 3 large indoor basketball courts that would be ideal for the tournament. And it was…
For over 15 years the “Western Mass Basketball Tournament” was the largest of its kind anywhere! 16 camps would come by bus to the Pittsfield Y for a 3 day tournament in each age bracket and local High referees officiated all the games. Come the finals camps would bus their campers to come watch. You can only imagine the transportation logistics, the number of games, and of course the crazy excitement of such a grand event.
In 1968 I was fortunate to play on our first 16.6 championship team against Camp Potomac (no longer around). We won that night in dominate fashion 74-46 and I scored 33 points. This may have been the highlight of my basketball life. Although I went on to play HS and college basketball, I can remember no greater thrill than that night. The trip to Friendly’s for milkshakes and burgers is still clear in my mind.
All the camps of the day came through the Pittsfield YMCA until the early 80’s when the gym was no longer available to us. We moved to Lenox HS then to Lee HS for the ensuing years, until we build our own indoor gymnasium in 1999 where the tournament is now played.
We no longer have the 32 western Mass. camps we had in 1965, and the host gyms have changed a few times the past 50 years. The excitement and passion for this classic tournament is still very much alive as last weeks triumph testifies.
So when you here your children chant; “P with an I with a T-T-S with an F-I-E-L-D,
PITTSFIELD!” know that that they are cheering for the oldest ongoing tournament in western Massachusetts camping history.