Off to state for H-F team

Special Olympics Basketball team makes it to state

H-F Special Olympics Red and White Basketball team won their regional tournament on Jan. 19, qualifying them to move onto the state tournament in March.
The team beat Richards High School in the first game of the tournament (32-23). H-F pulled away at the end of the game to take the lead. They then won their last game of the tournament Shepherd High School (43-30).
The game against Shepherd had its ups and downs, but in the end they pulled off a win.
“It was a close game until the 3rd quarter when we began to pull away with the game. So we pretty much knew we were going to win going into the 4th quarter. The challenge was maintaining their focus on finishing the game,” coach Katherine Rice said.
The whole team is very excited to be able to make the trip to state this year. They are hoping to have lots of fun and win some games.
“I was so hyper when we won [the regional championship]! I gave all my teammates big high fives,” player Donzel Marshall said.
“We were all super excited to make it to state. The athletes had a really good season and they definitely deserved to make it,” peer partner Maddy Zirbel said. “They have made so many improvements and I hope we bring home the championship.”
The program hasn’t gone to state since their 2017-2018 season. The team didn’t really see this state run coming, they were all kinds of surprised when they won the tournament.
With two of their students leaving at the end of this season they hope to be able to perform well at state and leave them with a memorable last season.
“This is the last season for 2 of our athletes,” Rice said. “Jatwon Jackson and Chibuike Nwaru will be aging out of VAST this spring leaving big shoes to be filled on the court.”
Special Olympics Red and White Basketball team is often mistaken with the Unified Basketball team.       The Unified Basketball team has won state the past three years in a row
The Special Olympics Red and White Basketball team is solely students with disabilities. There are no peer partners on the court playing with them, whereas the Unified Basketball team has partners playing in games with them.
Even though the Special Olympics Red and White team do not have partners playing with them in games, the do have partners who are “helpers.” They help the athletes during practice and cheer them on at games.
The partners, coaches and athletes are eager to compete at state. The team will be making the trip to state to compete in the Special Olympics Division 5 state tournament. The tournament will be held the weekend of March 13-14 at the Horton Field House at Illinois State University.