It’s roster kept getting smaller as the Amateur Athletic Union nationals wore on, but the MBR girls 16U basketball team played with heart.

Even though the squad, coached by John DeRaps, was limited to six players at one point after pool play due to injuries and sickness, the team of local players kept battling.

“The kids really played well, they played a lot better than I expected them to,” said DeRaps, whose club compiled a 3-2 record in the Division II portion of the tournament held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., last week.

In MBR’s first double-elimination game, a 64-57 loss to the Florida Waverunners, Hampden Academy’s Whitney Moore suffered a head injury and couldn’t play in the team’s next game, while Mount Desert Island’s Megan Phelps came down with the flu prior to MBR’s elimination contest against the Norfolk (Va.) Express, leaving the team with just six players.

“The kids really stepped up and played hard,” DeRaps said.

Norfolk defeated MBR 58-48, but the kids from the Pine Tree State left the Sunshine State with a lot of confidence and memories.

The other members of the squad are Katelyn DeRaps, the coach’s daughter, Julia Snyder, Kate Parsons and Jordan Maxwell of Hampden, Hillary Throckmorton of Bangor and Allaina Murphy of St. Dominic’s in Auburn.

Michaela Stephenson (previous commitment) of Hampden and Cony of Augusta’s Mia Diplock (hand injury) were also on the club, but didn’t make the trip to Florida.

The team emerged from its pool with a 3-0 record with wins over teams from Georgia, Mississippi and Florida, and while MBR had the option of playing in the more challenging Division I bracket, it chose to compete in Division II.

The tournament featured three divisions.

“They all picked Division II, they thought Division III might be too low and Division I might be too hard for us, but I think we could’ve competed in Division I,” DeRaps said. “[But] it was our first time going, and we didn’t want to go down there and get killed. We did see some very good talent in the Division II ranks.”

The players had to raise a lot of money for the trip, and did so via bottle drives and other fundraising activities while local businesses donated money.

The team rented a condo in Orlando which cost $1,000, DeRaps said, while other expenses, such as meals, gas and rental vehicles added up to about $1,600.

The players’ parents paid for their respective plane tickets.

With this being the first major AAU tourney for most of the players, they headed to Florida with a positive outlook.

“They didn’t really know what to expect, I didn’t either,” said DeRaps. “It was unbelievable, I’ve never had a group of girls where every single one of them played well each game. This past week, everyone played well.”

DeRaps particularly saw some great things from the Hampden contingent, and thinks that last week’s success could lead to another deep tournament run for the Broncos this winter.

“Just by them playing together, and I do a lot of the same style of play that [HA coach] Chad [Bradbury] does, we talk on a weekly basis and I think we’re on the same wavelength of what we think the kids should be doing,” DeRaps said.

The tournament featured players who are being recruited by Division I and II colleges, while the Division I field drew recruiters from Connecticut and Tennessee.

“To see the talent that’s out there across the country, to just go somewhere like that and see the athleticism of some of the kids is incredible,” DeRaps said.

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Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports freelancer Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins.