Like many of the esteemed student-athletes in the WHS Athletic Hall of Fame, Anthony Coppola, class of 2007, was a multi-sport athlete. But it was in the gym and on the basketball court under the direction of Hall of Fame coach, Steve Harrington, where he was most dynamic and successful.
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“Anthony was relentless,” Harrington told us. “He had tunnel vision all the time, but especially as a senior, when we knew as a program we could make a good run at the program’s first State Title.” And after a grinding 18 game Middlesex League schedule, a brutal battle through the D3 North sectionals, a glorious trip to the Boston Garden, and four clutch free-throws by the cool, calm, and collected Coppola down the stretch to cap a nail biting one point victory in Worcester, the Red Raiders did indeed get to hoist the trophy.
Like many of Harington’s troops, Coppola started out at the Boys and Girls Club playing Biddy Basketball. In fact, he even admitted to us “on occasion, I would skip CCD and head over to the Club to shoot.” As he got older, and bigger and stronger, WHS basketball was akin to Friday Night Lights, and the rising star couldn’t wait to be part of the program. But first, he had to beat his father in one-on- one in the backyard. Emilio Coppola, captain of the WHS team as a senior in 1980, was a natural shooter, and handed down many critical fundamentals to his growing son. Anthony admitted to us he started beating his dad on the court “around fifth grade. From then on I became too quick for him. But he definitely helped my form.” And finally in Middle School, Harrington challenged the 8 th grader, telling him if he worked hard all summer, he could most likely help the Red Raiders as a freshman. Sure enough, Coppola made the varsity as a 9 th grader, and came off the bench to average 6 points a game for the 14- 7 Red Raiders. Not a bad way to start a career for a future League MVP.
As a sophomore in the winter of 2005, Coppola averaged 17 points per game, and helped lead a loaded WHS team to a 22-0 record and a date in the North Sectional finals with Lynn Tech at Tsongas Arena. He dropped 26 on them, but Tech prevailed. As a junior, and now a team captain, the maturing 6-foot-1-inch shooter grew his season scoring average to 18.5 PPG, and led the Red Raiders back to Tsongas Arena and the North Finals. This time an inspired Minuteman Regional team dropped WHS in overtime, despite 28 points from Coppola. That summer, going from his junior year and into his senior year, Coppola, now the two-time captain and indisputable team leader guided his summer teammates through a tenacious but gratifying two month “pre-season.” Harrington told us he saw “many good signs from all the players. But I could tell Anthony had a laser focus about him. He worked on his outside shooting, but also committed himself to the weight room and gained about 15 pounds of muscle to help his inside game. He had a tunnel vision that I knew would be inspiring.”
Under the spotlight, and always the focus of the opposition’s defenses, Coppola’s senior year was one for the record books. He recorded 666 points, breaking the single season school record. He finished with 1558 career points, also good for number 1 on the school’s all-time list. He was a three-time Middlesex League All-Star, and after averaging 26.7 PPG, was voted the League MVP in his final year. He was voted both a Herald and Globe All-Scholastic, and was named a “Dream Teamer” (State’s Top 5 players) for both publications. He led the Red Raiders to a 2 nd place finish in the always challenging Middlesex League, and an overall record of 17-3. Most importantly however, he anchored the squad to a perfect 5-0 record in the post-season, and the program’s first State Title.
Winning doesn’t come without its trials. Coppola and the Red Raiders began their championship run with five point victories over Minuteman and Bishop Fenwick to set up a re-match with Bedford in the North Finals at Tsongas Arena. It was tied at 38 with 8 minutes to go when the Captain took over. Coppola helped stretch the lead to 5 with a bullet pass to Kyle Stockmal. Then he pretty much buried the Bucs with a dagger three, and it was on to the Garden after another 5 point win, 63-58. Coppola played the Medfield game in the EMass finals with a sore ankle and a recently broken finger. His long range shooting limited, he managed only 14 points in the 65-51 win, but as a sign of better things to come, he was 8-8 from the foul line. In the Championship game, which featured five ties and five lead changes, Coppola battled through the injuries and led the Raiders to a dramatic 62-61 win. He scored a team high 24 points, including 10-11 from the line. The Worcester Centrum Red Raider’s fandom was delirious as Coppola calmly sank the last four points of the game for Watertown from the foul line in the last 9 seconds to seal the victory and the school’s first ever State Title in basketball. 1558 career points, but none bigger than the final four.
Coppola continued his successful basketball career at Wheaton College, where he maintained a tremendous shooting touch. As a freshman, he tied a school record with four 30-point games, and hit the second most three-pointers ever in school history. He was named the D3hoops.com Northeast Region Rookie of the Year, was voted to the D3hoops.com All-Northeast Region team, earned the NEWMAC Rookie of the Year, and joined the NEWMAC All-Conference team. By the time he graduated he was second in career points at the school with 1863, 3 rd in field goals made (632), 8 th in field goal percentage, second in total three-pointers (233), third in three point FG%, third in free throws made (366), and sixth in steals with 142. All 4 years he was voted an All-Conference player. Not bad for a kid who used to sneak into the Boys and Girls Club to shoot hoops.
Welcome to the WHS Athletic Hall of Fame Anthony Coppola.
Tickets are now available for the Watertown High School Athletic Hall of Fame Banquet to be held at the St. James Armenian Church Hall on Saturday October 21st. For more info contact Mike Venezia at 617-359-2788, or email@example.com