On Friday, March 13 the District 99 Special Olympics basketball program headed to Illinois State University to compete in the Special Olympics Illinois State Tournament. All three teams of District 99 hoops qualified for the state tournament.
Each team was assigned a division based on skill level in the beginning of the season. Team One was in Division 11, Team Two was in Division 4, and Team Three was in Division 1. To qualify for the state tournament, each team had to win their respective division at regionals. All three teams came in first for their divisions.
Friday morning, the teams got on mini buses or drove with their parents to Bloomington IL to play their first game. “About seven or eight of them came on the bus with us,” senior student coach Bailey Greenaberg said. “They enjoyed being with their friends on the way there.”
Teams played one game on Friday and one game on Saturday. “Our goal was to do our best and have fun,” Greenaberg said. The program went 1-2 on Friday with Team One winning while Team Two and Three lost.
On Friday night all three teams went out for a program dinner. “It was awesome because all three teams finally got to hang out and get to know each other a little more,” senior student coach Andrew Handley said.
After the opening games ended Friday, Team One was scheduled to play for first place, Team Two was going for a medal, and Team Three was in the second place game.
“They loved playing in front of the big crowd of people,” D99 Hoops sponsor Kimberly Jaros said. “They enjoyed seeing their reaction when a player would score.”
Team Three’s second place game came down to the wire in overtime. Thanks to hard work, they won the game. “We started off overtime with a basket and then continued to make 4 more baskets. Our team did a nice job passing the ball to find the open teammate and our teamwork was exceptional,” Jaros said.
Team Two played their second game and earned a medal. In the 1st place game, Team One had an easy time winning the game and earned first place.
This was the first year that DGN combined with DGS and transitional athletes to form the three teams. It was the first time that DGN athletes were able to compete at state. “It was a great learning experience for all of the players,” Jaros said.
Jake Stevenson | Sports Editor