Decades of futility and frustration dissolved into delirium as the Winooski High School girls basketball team won its first-ever Division III state title with an exhilarating 52-48 come-from-behind win over Williamstown on Saturday night at Barre Auditorium.
“To win first championship is awesome,” said Winooski senior Brianna Robare, who capped a sensational 1,000-point-plus career with a game high 19 points. “I’m so glad we made our own history tonight. People will remember now that Winooski won, but more importantly we will always remember that it was us that did it.
“I’ve never felt like this before in my life. I never want it to end,” said Robare.
The fifth-seeded Spartans (18-6) trailed 46-41 with 3:29 to play and were still behind 48-47 with 34 seconds left when Robare stole the ball at midcourt and drove in for the go-ahead score.
After second-seeded Williamstown (19-5) missed two free throws — making them 8-for-22 from the line for the game — Robare was sent to the line with 25 seconds to play. Robare misfired on both shots, but sophomore Christina Dang corralled the offensive rebound and her putback made the score 51-48 with 20.6 second left.
Dang then intercepted the inbounds pass and dished to Robare, who made one more free throw with 13.7 second to play. Williamstown failed to score on its final possession and the Spartans could finally celebrate.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Dang, tears of joy still in her eyes after the game. “We’ve been working for this the whole year. I’m lost for words.”
Dang finished with 11 points, eight in the final quarter.
“I was really nervous early, but I had to step it up and I did,” said Dang. “I just did my part.”
Carissa Carrier scored a team-high 14 for Williamstown, which led by three points at the half and after three quarters. Mariah Lamell added nine points and Danielle Jesmonth had five and did a superb job keeping Robare in check over the final 24 minutes after Robare scored 11 points in the first quarter.
“(It’s) bittersweet,” said Williamstown coach Sid Sweet. “Honestly, I know the girls are hurting right now, but I told them nobody has ever been here from Williamstown before and I couldn’t be more proud. I don’t (like) the scoreboard, but it is what it is.”
With Robare struggling find room to maneuver offensively after the first quarter, Winooski sophomore Amanda Nattress came to the rescue with 13 of her 15 points in the final three quarters.
“We all tried our best to step it up out there,” said Nattress. “Fortunately, I made some shots. It could have been anyone of us to do it out there. We play as a team and tonight we won as a team.”
“I’m just so proud of them,” said coach Tom Prim. “We had the ups and the downs (tonight). We didn’t get the big lead like the other night. We fell behind. (In the fourth quarter) it looked like they put the nail in the coffin.”
“I just had to back to the way it was in the beginning of the year when I was very hard on them and them know you are not quitters and to keep working hard and they did,” said Prim. “It’s awesome.”