BRATTLEBORO -- Playing hard, working together, and playing for each other have been the secret ingredients for the Brattleboro Vipers, who recently three-peated as Vermont State AAU girls basketball champions.
"They have all been great, but this was definitely the sweetest," said Karen Henry, who coaches the grades 6-7 Brattleboro team.
The Vipers trounced Northwest Ice 55-17 in their state tournament opener, routed River Valley 36-8 in Game 2, took care of the Vermont Cats B team 41-10 in the semifinals, and then defeated the Vermont Cats A team 52-41 in the championship game.
"In terms of overall play this weekend, our defense was phenomenal. Our girls stepped up and didn’t allow any of the teams to get easy points. We kept them out of the paint and forced them to take bad shots. We did the little things right -- boxed out, rebounded, and took care of the ball. This is a team and they absolutely played like one," stated Henry.
Karen is assisted by Matt Henry. Members of the Vipers team are Lila Flynn, Hailey Derosia, Jamie Mahoney, Sydney Henry, Megyn Ayotte, Ally Erunski, Ali Buckley, Julianne Liebow, Maris Linder, Lauren McKenney and Sierra Fillion.
"For the last two weeks, the girls worked amazingly hard and went into the tournament knowing they were prepared," noted Karen. "Matt and I just kept telling them that if they play hard, work together and play for each other, the rest will fall into place. As cliche as it may sound, these girls feel like they are a family, and this weekend they played like one."
The Vipers went 4-0 in a Lowell, Mass. tournament in March, were the Zero Gravity State Tournament champions in St. Johnsbury in April, and made it to the finals in the Sports Zone tournament in Derry, N.H., losing a tough game to a Boston-based select team.
"All in all, a very successful AAU season," said the Vipers coach.
Henry’s players joined forces for the first time in 2010 when most of them were just 8-years-old. They got used to being the youngest and smallest team in the brackets.
"But even with all of the lumps we took that year, the girls learned to love basketball and love playing with each other. From there, we just took off."
Did they ever.
After winning back-to-back state titles, the Vipers had to get revenge on a Burlington team made up of all seventh graders in order to three-peat. Brattleboro, which had lost to the Vermont Cats A team by four points just two weeks earlier in Manchester, used its secret ingredients and stingy defense to claim the crown.
Shane Covey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 163.