BRATTLEBORO >> Despite an eight-game losing streak early in the season, the 12 Brattleboro Union High School varsity girls basketball players refused to throw in the towel.
Instead, the Colonels fought their way out of the corner and qualified for the Division 1 Tournament, before knocking out third-seeded Essex and then sixth-ranked Saint Johnsbury. The purple and white would then become the first No. 14 seed in Vermont history to reach a Final 4.
And that magical run, which ended with a semifinal loss to BFA-St. Albans, unanimously earned them Reformer Team of the Season honors. Brattleboro received 59 votes on the Reformer Sports Facebook page, while Leland & Gray snowboarding followed with 14 votes and Vermont Academy boys hoops ended up with 11 votes.
"I'm so excited for the team. They earned this," said Kelly Millerick Derosia, whose daughters Morgan and Hailey were starters on the BUHS team. "They could have given up, but instead they stuck together and believed in each other and demonstrated so much heart and perseverance. It was a great lesson in life."
Having lost VBCA All-Stars Maddy Derosia and Abbie Lesure to graduation, the Colonels got off to a 2-10 start. But the purple and white would string together consecutive victories over Hartford and BBA, before winning four out of five games down the stretch.
"This group came in and worked hard every day. They stayed connected, and that type of heart and unity, in our case, has given us this opportunity we are in," said BUHS coach Paul Freed.
After point guard Devin Millerick scored 11 points and super sub Shenise Taliaferro netted nine in Brattleboro's 45-43 OT upset over Essex in a playdown, there were whispers of a glass slipper. And then the Colonels surprised Saint Johnsbury 50-46 in a quarterfinal, behind freshman Hailey Derosia's 17 points and 16 more from Millerick.
"Cinderella is still dancing," stated coach Freed after that shocker.
Brattleboro backers, including the student section that encouraged from the bleachers and a player's aunt in Boston who attended some games and watched others online, started to think that this adventure might have a fairytale ending. They may have even imagined stories being told 100 years from now, beginning with "There once was a never-say-die team that started three first cousins."
The Colonels travelled to UVM for a semifinal, which was the program's first Final 4 appearance since advancing there from 1991-94. Courtney Christmas, Kara Miner and Jennifer Hamilton had all played for BUHS during those powerhouse years, and all had a daughter on this Rocky Balboa type squad.
BUHS would lose to BFA-St. Albans in the semis, 52-26, with WTSA FM broadcasting the game for those who couldn't make it to Burlington that night. The listeners here in town were probably waiting for Bill Holiday to start talking about Morgan Derosia going Teen Wolf on the Comets and then an unbelievable comeback.
Because when it came to this Brattleboro team, you couldn't help believing.