The Hull (Mass.) High girls basketball team put together a Cinderella run through the state tournament, capped off by a 59-55, Division 4 state championship win against New Mission (Mass.) High. Yet Hull faced even more challenges than most regional 16 seeds, with the biggest coming before the season even started.
In fact, according to the Boston Globe, Hull's season almost didn't tip off at all, with the Pirates forced to fundraise throughout the entire fall sports season to raise enough money to host a girls basketball season. Unlike a number of school districts around the country, which are expected to cut athletic funding for fall 2011, Hull has been operating without an athletic budget for two years already. The school uses its gate receipts to help fund teams, and has severely slashed nonconference road appearances.
"If we don't [fundraise], the day will come where we'll have to cut something," Hull athletic director Jim Quatromoni told the Boston Globe. "I can't say enough, we've been very successful with fundraising right now. Everyone has been fantastic, but the burden of the funding of our athletic department has gone from a town-wide issue, a town-wide responsibility, to a select few — those who pay the fees, those who pay the tickets, and those who take the time to open up their pocket books and donate to us.
"This is not sustainable. The day will come, and I'm up at night worrying that the day will come, when some student-athletes will be denied an experience like this. It's been a very difficult and emotional roller coaster. As I've said before, these kids are working hard in the offseason to improve -- if they have a team. It sounds crazy after what was just accomplished."
The concept of a reigning champion not defending its crown does sound ludicrous, but it could be a reality in Massachusetts come winter 2011. After voters turned down a proposition last May that would have brought athletic funding back to Hull, the school district was left with little choice but to fundraise for all its expenses or simply not field teams.
For two years now, the decision in each season was to field a full slate of teams, but Hull girls basketball star Nicole Heavern made it clear that fielding a 2011-12 campaign would be no sure thing, just as the 2010-11 edition wasn't.
"I definitely didn't think there was going to be a basketball season during the fall," Heavern told the Globe. "We had to fundraise and the whole soccer season we were just being told that we weren't sure if we had basketball yet and to keep fundraising. ... I had to make sure I went to every single fundraiser to make sure that we got money for this."
They did get the money for the season, and eventually they landed the school's first state title since 1997 in a remarkable finish to one of the more uncertain prep basketball campaigns in recent years.