HINESBURG – A raucous post-game celebration? Nope.
Perhaps an opportunity to cut down the nets as keepsakes? Nope, again.
Maybe, then, a team photo to capture the moment? Uh, nope.
Another win? Yup.
The Champlain Valley Union High School girls basketball team established a modern Vermont hoops record Monday night by stretching its multi-year winning streak to a 75th straight game.
Just high-fives and a quick, on-court huddle followed the Redhawks’ 53-25 victory over Rice in a clash between Metro Division rivals.
Just another regular-season game.
“That’s exactly what it was,” CVU coach Ute Otley said.
The time to reflect came in a private setting, devoid of media and fans.
“I took them upstairs after the game and we said we are going to spend three minutes here together and have an internal celebration,” Otley said. “I wanted to tell them how proud I am and that the discipline and hard work long before this has made this streak possible.”
But it’s only December, a far cry from tournament time.
“We are not playing perfect basketball yet and until we do, we have stuff to work on,” Otley said.
The streak started in the opener to the 2012-2013 season, when a pair of freshmen, Sadie Otley and Laurel Jaunich, had productive Redhawk debuts. And it remains unblemished, 74 games, three Division I titles later, thanks to Otley and Jaunich who combined for 36 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in Monday’s triumph.
“It was something no one really wanted to talk about up until this point, didn’t want to jinx it or anything,” Sadie Otley said. “It has been in the back of my mind, but I know I try to focus on the next game and take it one at a time.
“We try not to focus on the big thing, because that can be overwhelming when you think about the magnitude of (the winning streak).”
While CVU broke Oxbow’s 1984-1988 unbeaten run, the longest streak since the Vermont Principals’ Association began holding state tournaments in 1972, the Williamstown girls captured 107 straight games between 1947-1956. That feat came in an era when girls played 6-on-6 (3-on-3 half-court), according to former Williamstown athletic director Dick Hayden.
Williamstown’s record is recognized by the National Federation of State High Schools Association.
“It’s a tremendous accomplishment. I hope they continue it,” Hayden said of CVU.
From one era to the next, CVU made its mark against the state’s toughest foes.
“I think any time you are trying to win consecutive championships or consecutive games, you have to have players and coaches that are willing to buying in,” said CVU athletic director Dan Shepardson, who helped Northfield boys soccer build a 70-game unbeaten run that ended in 1991. “You have to take care of the little things. If you do that, the wins and losses take care of themselves.
“To have that level of excellence sustained over this amount of time is really impressive.”
Overcoming early jitters, CVU went to work on the defensive end, turning turnovers into easy buckets and a 10-2 lead after the first quarter.
Then a 21-0 run, spanning the second and third quarters, ballooned a seven-point lead into a 35-7 advantage. Jaunich, taking feeds from her teammates, scored 15 of her game-high 21 points during the spurt. The Free Press’ reigning Miss Basketball also finished with six rebounds and four assists.
“The girls did a great job getting her the basketball,” Ute Otley said.
Sadie Otley recorded 14 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals while Annabella Pugliese blocked three shots, handed out three assists and hauled down four boards.
Lisa Sulejmani paced Rice (2-2) with a dozen points. Leah Larivee added six.
The victory was CVU’s fourth of the season –– and the fourth by at least 25 points.
“They are in midseason form already,” Green Knights coach Tim Rice said. “It’s difficult to do, night in and night out in the Metro. They have done a real, real nice job.”
But CVU hasn’t rolled to 75 in a row with rout victories.
In the first year of the streak, the Redhawks needed overtime to beat Colchester and a last-second shot to edge Burlington. Last year, Essex took CVU to an extra session before succumbing. And, of course, the Rice-CVU battles at Patrick Gym — two state finals and a semifinal bout settled by a combined nine points, all in the Redhawks’ favor.
“I think that experience, not only does it carry over, it bleeds into the other girls,” Ute Otley said. “I think it speaks to the system. Our commitment to the system and kids knowing their jobs and doing their jobs at every level, I think that has been the key to the success.”
Winning — it’s contagious.
“People sometimes ask me if I get sick of it,” Sadie Otley said. “Not at all.”