NORTH ADAMS -- Shannon Garvey knocked down and early fourth-quarter 3-pointer and sent her coach into a frenzy.
John Franzoni jumped up, pumped his fists and clapped his hands. Garvey had just given his Blue Devils a big lead in the Western Massachusetts Division II semifinal. It was the Drury's first trip to the Curry Hicks Cage in five years, and its head coach wasn't hiding his excitment.
Franzoni successfully led the Drury girls' basketball team to the Cage for at least the semifinals in each of his first five years as head coach. In 2005 and 2006, the Blue Devils advanced to the finals before Hampshire knocked them out to take the crown.
The Blue Devils' bus trips to the Cage came to a halt starting in 2008. Drury ran into a roadblock in the form of the quarterfinals. Every year, no matter its seed, Drury seemed to head home early. Until this year.
"It's nice, for me personally now I've been [to the Cage] with three different groups of kids," Franzoni said. "We came back and had some good teams, but just couldn't get there. Which just shows how special it is to get there."
The Blue Devils ended that semifinal drought this season, advancing to play Wahconah at the Cage. Top-seeded Drury beat No. 4 Wahconah on Thursday night and returns to the Cage for a shot at the Western Massachusetts Division II title against rival Hoosac Valley on Saturday.
If Drury can top No. 7 Hoosac Valley, it would be the
"I think this one means a little more," said Ellen Sutherland, Franzoni's wife. "He hasn't been to the Cage for a while, and it's a local rivalry. I know he has a lot of respect for their players and coaches, but he wants to come out on top."
Ending the title drought with his current team might be one reason this year means a little more to him.
"All the girls he has coached have been wonderful, but this has been such a great group of kids," Sutherland said. "They are fun and really a great group."
Franzoni's success as a coach shouldn't be a surprise. He spends much of his time game-planning and searching for ways to give his team an edge.
Before each game, Franzoni presents his team with a game plan of exactly how the Blue Devils need to attack the opposition. He tries to know the opponent as well as he knows his own team. It starts with film study. Lots and lots of film study.
"He does a really good job scouting," senior Danielle Racette said after a walk through on Friday. "He writes up a thing on every single player. He films every game he goes to watch. He walks us through step by step, really of everything that they are going to do.
"It's so helpful when you are on the court. It's like you know what is coming. The preparation factor is just huge in games like this."
The head coach asks a lot of his players. Not just on the court, but off the court as well. He demands his student-athletes work just as hard in the classroom as they do on the court.
He's been known to have players do their homework during practice time.
"I'm so proud of him for the work that he does with these kids," Sutherland said. "He's just so focused on his kids as student-athletes, he puts that first. He's never had a player fail off the team."
It's not just his athletes he demands top effort from in the classroom. He also expects it from himself. Last season, while coaching and working, he completed his masters degree and finished his principal certification.
His players are all expected to work hard both on the court and off it. His teams have given him that effort for the past 10 seasons.
"They all embrace that student-athlete roll," Franzoni said. "They all know they are students first. That carries onto the court. We always say you can't just show up and say ‘I'm going to be disciplined.' You need to be disciplined in all aspects of your life.
"That's what our kids are. They are good students, good family members, they are role models. They are disciplined in all aspects of life and that translates onto the court."
Now, he hopes this team can take the final step. It's one thing to be in the finals, but it's another to win.
"That's what we talked about with the kids [Friday]," Franzoni said. "Once you have that and have accomplished that with your team, you always have that."