WESTFORD — With seven kids in the family and three different outside hoops to choose from, it’s never difficult to get a pickup basketball game going at the Bramanti house in Chelmsford.
But those games tend to turn intense in a hurry.
“Well, they usually end up in a fight, that’s for sure,” said Chris Bramanti, the patriarch of the family and also the head boys basketball coach at Westford Academy. “Depending on who’s playing and how we play — everybody wants to win, everybody is ultra-competitive. Ultimately, somebody grabs a rebound and elbows fly, and next thing you know everybody is pushing and shoving. It’s fun until it gets to that point.”
For now, the ruler of the family courts is Emily Bramanti, a senior point guard and captain on the Westford Academy girls team — she attends Westford because Chris teaches in the English department at the high school.
The second-oldest among the Bramanti kids has earned undeniable respect from her five younger brothers — twins Luke and Owen (freshmen), William (eighth grade), Noah (11) and Sam (8).
“I think they’re a little afraid of her,” joked Chris, a former walk-on basketball player at Bentley. “She gets after them really hard. She’s fearless. If they’re pushing, she’s going to push right back … they know that she can play.”
The rest of the state knows she can play as well. Last season, as a junior captain, she helped lead the Grey Ghosts to the Division 1 state semifinals and a record of 20-3 en route to being named a Sun All-Star. This season, she’s led Westford to a 4-0 start and is averaging 15.1 points, five assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Her blend of talent, toughness and leadership has caught the eye of coaches at the next level, with Stonehill and Southern New Hampshire University among the schools showing major interest.
“She has started every game that she’s a been a varsity member for us,” said Westford girls hoop coach Russ Coward. “It’s been great for two reasons. One is that, obviously, she’s a great player. But also watching her grow as a player has kind of paralleled our team. When she came in as a freshman, we lost a lot of seniors who made the state final, and watching Emily slowly become a part of the team and become a leader on the team, and become one of our leading scorers has paralleled how we’ve improved over the last few years.”
Coward says it’s easy to tell Emily is the daughter of a coach. Her feel for the game and willingness to be a vocal presence on the floor sets her apart. Because of that, Coward tries to avoid taking Emily out games for lengthy stretches.
She’s simply too important on both ends for the Grey Ghosts. Her role is to provide whatever Westford might need at a particular moment.
Scoring figures to be a key component this winter.
“My dad really aids me in improving my game. He’ll say, ‘Oh, that was good’ or, ‘I think you should work on this,’ ” said Bramanti. “I really take into consideration what he says. He’s never been like, ‘Go out and practice shooting.’ He’s more like, ‘Here are some drills, you can do them if you want.’ ”
Emily recalls sitting down with her dad and being interested in watching basketball games on television when she was in fourth grade. She remembers going to her first Celtics game at TD Garden against the Dallas Mavericks “a long time ago” when her dad surprised her with tickets.
“Basketball has been a big part of our relationship,” said Emily, who is also a standout softball player.
Guard play is so pivotal to long-term success in basketball. To that point, Westford hopes it is poised for another Dual County League Large title and a long postseason run with Emily joined in the backcourt by seniors Elizabeth Arnold and Alli Mulhern, and junior Brooke Pillsbury.
“The four of them can guard anybody and they can play offense against anybody,” said Coward. “So we have a shot.”