Almost one year to the day, the Bellcate Unified Basketball team claimed the school’s first ever Unified Basketball State Championship, the Bulldogs did it again, beating the Middlebury Tigers 57-27 last Thursday at Castleton University.
With a sell out crowd in attendance, Bellcate took an early 2-0 lead and didn’t look back for the rest of the game. The Bulldogs did not trail at all during the game. “We were coming into this game red hot,” says coach Heather. “Similar to last year’s team, we had won 7 games straight headed into the championship, and I could tell our kids were ready from the moment we walked into the gym.” she added.
The Bulldogs scoring attack was led by the “Big 3” who are Marcus, Ben, and Alex. Marcus and Alex, who played on this stage last season, showed tremendous leadership and gave the Bulldogs timely scoring when needed. Ben, who enrolled into Bellcate earlier this year, displayed his skill set to the entire state throughout the season. “Those 3 guys right there are beasts.” Teams could not match up with us when those 3 were all healthy and playing.” commented coach Jeff.
Along with the “Big 3” the Bulldogs also got huge contributions from Isaiah K, Marissa, Callie, Colby, and Nate. Isaiah, who repped his number 20 jersey again this year, played a pivotal role as this years “Mr. Hustle.” “Isaiah showed a lot of toughness this season and did all the little things some players do not like to do. Boxing out, diving on the floor for loose balls, Isaiah did those things for his team.” mentioned coach Jamie. “I tell the kids, all the time, that you can effect a game, even if you don’t score that much, and Isaiah made his presence felt every game by doing the little things.” adds Jamie. Marissa, coming off a phenomenal showing at this year’s Special Olympic Winter Games in snowshoeing, took her competitive spirit to the hardwood and showed why she is one of the most gifted athletes in the state. “Marissa can do it all ladies and gentleman. She is so gifted athletically, and it showed this season on the court. If you haven’t seen her pump fake, she did in the championship, you need to watch the news clip!” Says coach Jac. Callie who was second on the team in rebounding last season, returned for another run at a state title. “I love basketball, and I love winning, so it was a no brainer” said Callie. Similar to last season, Callie dominated the glass and played incredible defense throughout the year. “I’m not much of a scorer like those other guys that fly up and down the court. I mean I could be if I wanted to, but they aren’t as versatile as I am, so I figured I better just rebound and play defense to help my team. There is no “I” in team ya know, but there is in Callie!” she added.
New to the team this year was Colby F and Nate. Both kids had been training incredibly hard to get a spot on this year’s team. “I want that trophy” said Colby when looking at last year’s trophy. Colby, playing in front of his great grandfather for many of the games, wooed the crowd with his sweet left handed jump shot that he would let fly from anywhere on the court. “Colby has, what I like to call, unlimited range” comments coach Jamie. Similar to another Bulldog legend, Johnny Moretti, there isn’t a spot on the court that Colby does not like to shoot from!” adds Moore. Colby showed no nerves in his first State Championship game, as he knocked in a sweet 2 pointer from the left block, that ignited the Bulldogs into the second quarter. Nate, who also had a huge fan following, developed himself into quite a 3 point shooter by the end of the year. This was very evident in the championship game. With time winding down in the 4th quarter, coach Jamie called Nate over to the three point line in front of the bench, and instructed Eric to pass him the ball. As Nate caught it, his teammates from the bench yelled, “shoot it!” Nate, looked at the bench and said “like you have to tell me that!” He then heaved up a three pointer and banked it in for 3 points! As the crowd erupted, Nate ran back on defense with pride running through his veins. However, Nate wasn’t done yet. A few minutes later, Nate caught the ball at the same spot. Once again, his teammates yelled out “Shoot it!” Nate once again had a comment for his teammates. “I can make this shot with my eyes closed guys!” Nate let the ball fly, and this time the ball hit nothing but the net. The crowd once again roared and the chant of “NATE NATE NATE” was heard across the campus of Castleton University.
Along with these terrific athletes, this year’s championship team had 5 “captains” that played a huge role in our season. Eric, Isaiah W, Dylan, Colby S, and Kyron were amazing all year long and held the team together through the good times and bad. “Watching these guys on the court, supporting their teammates, helping them understand what to do next, and giving encouragement and friendship, was exactly what Unified Basketball was meant to be!” said, coach Jac. Without these 5 playing their role, we would not be State Champions again. Good job team, we are all so proud of you!