Perfection; Tracy Ciosek-Beloin never lost as a Lady Knight ace

By John Goralski

Sports Writer

Tracy Beloin—or Tracy Ciosek as she’s remembered by Lady Knight fans—almost missed the 1986 championship basketball game because of a severe back problem that had plagued her all season, so nobody expected her to carry the team on her shoulders in the final minutes of the game.

Rockville’s game plan was working. A box-and-one defense held Tracy to just one basket in the opening quarter. A relentless attack held her to just three scores in the opening half, but Southington opened an almost insurmountable lead by the break.

Nobody thought they needed her scoring until Southington’s collapse after the break. The lopsided lead shrank to just three points. Coaches screamed for Ciosek. Fans screeched for their junior scorer, and her teammates begged her to score. Ciosek called for the ball.

“She fired four times. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang,” wrote former Southington Observer sports writer Jim Senich. “Rockville was history. Southington High School’s girls basketball team was a state champion in the Class LL division.”

Tracy was crowned as the tournament’s most valuable player. Her photo was splashed across the state’s media, and her name was scrawled across the headlines. Former Lady Knight coach Joe Daddio bragged about his junior star.

“The girls sensed right away Tracy would win the game for them when she hit her first shot,” he told reporters as she climbed the ladder to cut down the net. “Hey, we have so much confidence in Tracy, we had a play where we set a pick for her 18 feet from the hoop. And she hit it. Beautiful.”

Most athletes would champion a moment like this when they start to weave stories about their glory days as an athlete. Actually, most would have to choose a moment much smaller than Ciosek’s buzzer-beating performance in a championship game, but Tracy never mentioned it during a 45-minute interview about one of Southington’s greatest female careers.

More than a quarter century has passed since her last-second heroics captured the title, but it’s the loss in 1985’s championship game that Tracy remembered the most.

“It still irks me today that we only won five of our six state championships,” she said about the Lady Knight storied runs in softball and basketball in the mid-1980s. “We should have won. We were winning the whole game and killing them in the state championship game at halftime, but we lost by two points. That was disgusting. I really think that was the best team we had, and we didn’t win…We should have been 6-for-6.”

The sports landscape was much different when Tracy arrived at the high school before Title IX forced schools to catch up to Southington’s lead. Some Connecticut schools didn’t even offer high school sports to their girls, but Southington was already as state power. Wins and titles were expected, and players almost felt like rock stars as they stepped onto the field.

“I can remember our gym being filled, not only with parents but with the students and all our friends. Everybody used to come out to watch Southington,” she said. “The gym was filled. We used to play softball, and all of our home games were under the lights at Recreation Park. I can remember having huge crowds cheering for us, and that was amazing. We had such huge support, and I guess I thought that everybody had that. I kind of took it for granted.”

For fans, it was worth the price of admission. Tracy was among a list of multiple sports athletes that raised the bar, even for Southington’s expectations. To this day, there are very few athletes that can compare to Southington’s success when Tracy was at the center.

She was a guard/forward on a team that rallied for back-to-back titles. She was a shortstop during her a title run in her sophomore year, and stepped to the mound to lead them back for two more titles during a pair of undefeated state title runs. Tracy seemed to excel when the game was on the line.

“She was just a great athlete. Tracy was a natural, and she seemed to enjoy everything about her high school experience,” said former Lady Knight coach Joe Piazza. “I don’t think you’re ever going to find another pitcher that started 48 games and won 48 games in her career. For a high school kid to say that they won 48 games in a row is something, but for Tracy to say that she never lost is incredible. That means that she didn’t have a bad day. Even if she had an off-day, she pitched well enough to win.”

For Tracy, it was just about the competition. She grew up at a time when there were no girls softball leagues. There were no girls travel teams or summer camps at the high school. If she wanted to compete, she had to beat the boys. And that’s exactly what she did. Tracy joined pick-up games in the neighborhood. She practiced with her father in the back yard and earned her way onto the Northern Little League Braves where she out-played the boys to earn a starting position as a shortstop.

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