AP NEWS

Brancatos not returning to Warde basketball

February 14, 2017

FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield Warde boys basketball team will be moving forward in its quest to capture its first FCIAC regular season and tournament title — without Giacomo and Antonio Brancato.

The two players, who quit the Mustangs program before the game against Stamford on Feb. 5, will not be returning, according to coach Ryan Swaller.

“It was a coaching staff decision,” Swaller said before Warde’s game against McMahon Monday night at the Mustangs gym. “They left the team … and it being this late in the year, the team is the most important. And our motto this year is “we is greater than me’ so we’re moving forward with the group that we have.”

Allegedly, this situation started back when the Mustangs played Trinity Catholic on Feb. 3, a team with more than average height on the front line and to combat that, Swaller did not start Antonio Brancato, who stands 5-foot-11. And while he did play significant minutes in the 67-60 win, Brancato’s father, Mario, apparently became upset over the alleged snub and had the boys first boycott practice and then quit the team.

The Brancato brothers did not travel with the team or play in the Mustangs’ 68-62 win at Stamford on Feb. 7 and didn’t play in Warde’s 86-81 triple-overtime loss to Trumbull on Friday, although both players and the father attended the game, cheering from the front row.

On Monday, Swaller again met with the Brancato brothers and, after the meeting, which lasted around 45 minutes, made the decision to formally remove them from the team.

And yes, the decision was a difficult one.

“They’re kids,” Swaller said. “You don’t want to have anyone go through something like this, but obviously, the team comes first. I had to do what was best for the team. There’s no right way to deal with this. It’s disappointing that this had to happen. They are no longer with the team.”

The Mustangs take on town-rival Ludlowe on Wednesday night at 7:30, before finishing the regular season with a game at Greenwich on Monday, Feb. 20, and a home game against Ridgefield on Feb. 22.

“I’m still kind of in shock over all of this,” Swaller said. “I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting about this, but all that matters is the team. That’s my main concern, what’s the best decision for the team and this is the best decision.”

celsberry@ctpost.com