BUHS Unified team cut down the nets

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Editor's note: This week we are looking back at the top sports stories of 2017. Here's No. 3.

BRATTLEBORO — Five days after Always Dreaming won the Kentucky Derby, a dream came true for 10 Brattleboro Union High School kids.

They were able to cut down the nets after nipping defending champion Champlain Valley, 46-45, in the Unified basketball title game in Castleton.

"What most impressed me about this team was how hard they worked and that they genuinely cared about each other," said Brattleboro coach Todd Bell.

Joy Young, Jacob Williams and Zach Smith made crucial baskets down the stretch for the Colonels in the thrilling finale. Young also hit her first three shots and scored the first six points of the game, Cody Hellus played solid defense and rebounded well throughout, and Smith was awesome from start to finish.

"The commitment this team made to each other was inspiring to be a part of. As we progressed through our season, we were able to identify each athlete's individual strengths and incorporate some general principles to take advantage of what each player brought to the table," Bell stated.

The Colonels went 8-1 overall, including a 46-38 victory over Leland & Gray in the first round of the tournament. Partners Tanner Bell and Shenise Taliaferro did a nice job of finding open shooters, while the leading scorers for the purple and white were Williams (12 points), Smith (12), Kayla Nicholson (8) and Young (8).

They were pretty much automatic at the charity stripe.

"All players would line up on the baseline and we would have to make four free throws. If a player missed, all would have to sprint the court and back, and a different player would shoot again until four shots were made," said Bell, referring to the end of each practice. "I recall towards the end of the season we did not have to run at all because we made four in a row."

Bell would talk to his players about a March Madness game to keep practices fun, but he also put them in the best position to succeed — explaining that a layup was a much higher percentage shot than a 3-pointer, for instance.

"A highlight for me was that every player, by the end of the season, could dribble using both hands, while other players significantly improved on their ability to catch a ball coming from above their heads," the BUHS coach said.

Hellus entertained crowds with his ability to own the boards and dribble coast to coast. Williams finished well on the break. Kayla Parro, Smith, Nicholson and Young continually made open shots. And Benjamin Thomas was a solid team defender.

"Everyone played a crucial part in our state championship run, from parents getting athletes to practices, players training together and genuinely supporting each other on and off the court, and our administration in supporting the development of this inclusive sports opportunity for our student athletes," added Bell.


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