A national championship one day, a trip to Magic Kingdom the next.
Excuse the 17-and-under Lone Wolf Athletics boys basketball team for pulling off the sports cliché.
“We went to Disney World,” coach Paul Booth said. “It’s what everybody does when they win a Super Bowl or NBA title, they go to Disney World.”
The excursion to Disney, though, was part of team’s itinerary. Coming home to Vermont with a crown was the pleasant surprise.
The Lone Wolf squad cruised over Central Western Red (N.Y.) in Sunday’s Division II final, 62-35, to complete a successful turn at the five-day AAU national championships held in Orlando, Florida.
“I’m sure it’s something our kids are never going to forget,” said Booth, who will enter his 25th season at the helm of the Norwich University men’s basketball program this winter. “To be honest, this was really unexpected. We went down there to compete and the next thing we know, we are playing Sunday for the national title on (ESPN3).
“I’m so happy for the kids. This has been a great experience.”
The nine-player Lone Wolf team included Vermonters Kevin Garrison (Burlington), Deng Adiang (Mount Mansfield), Tyler Muttilainen (Mount Mansfield), Jens Verderber (BFA-St. Albans), Kyle Booth (U-32), Caleb Webb (Woodstock) and Noah Tyson (Rutland).
Joey Stahl and Dylan Trombley, standouts from Moriah (N.Y.), were also an integral part of the squad.
Lone Wolf director Wayne Lafley said he couldn’t recall another Vermont AAU boys team winning a national title in this age group.
“It is Division II, but it’s still really good competition and it’s quite the achievement to end up winning it all,” Lafley said. “Those coaches have done a tremendous job and have been so invested with those kids. As the director of the program, I could not be prouder of what those kids and coaches have accomplished.”
Lone Wolf opened with a 2-1 record in pool play, tallying 114 points to their opponents’ 85-point total. Then they beat a Florida team 63-58, a Louisiana squad 70-48 and a Texas side 57-45 to advance to Sunday’s title game.
In the final, Booth said Lone Wolf played unselfishly in a wire-to-wire triumph.
“The kids did a wonderful job defending and moving the basketball, and they never allowed them to get into a rhythm,” Booth said. “We are team built on our defense and they did an exceptional job all week. It was really a group effort.”
By Alex Abrami