The Fayette County Special Olympics annual fundraising basketball games were held Wednesday evening at Washington High School versus local first responder squads, Team HAZMAT and the Guns and Hoses.
The first game of the evening was between the Fayette County J.V. Dragons and Team HAZMAT, which consisted of local Hazmat first responders. The J.V. Dragons played hard and won with a score of 53-37. According to coaches Erica McKinney and Andi Strahler, the game went very well and helped to get the team prepared for the upcoming state tournament final four.
“The team played fairly well tonight,” Strahler said during an interview following the victory. “We released them on shooting three-pointers. We don’t usually let them do that as we favor the inside game more. We had a couple make those shots. This is some great practice as we are playing against people bigger than us, so it gives them a good chance to get used to playing against taller people.”
During their season, the J.V. team needed to win four games to qualify for the tournament. This was no easy feat for the first-time coaches, but through hard work and determination the team pulled it off. The J.V. Dragons will begin their state Final Four play on Friday at 8 p.m. at Dover High School in Dover, Ohio.
“The game went really well, they were a little intimidated in the beginning, but the second half is always our comeback so we told them to go out there and show all of these fans how we really play,” McKinney said after the game. “They had a really fun time with the crowd seeing all of their friends and classmates, but I really think it bumped up their enthusiasm to play. We always tell our team to have fun and play with their heart. From the first practice when we didn’t think we would win a game, now we are on our way to the final four. We have overcome every obstacle that we have faced.”
The second game of the evening was between the Fayette County Varsity Dragons and the local first responders team, The Guns and Hoses. The varsity Dragons came out strong and took a commanding lead by the end of the first half. By the end of the second, the Dragons secured another victory with a score of 62-42.
“There are no more practices before our game on Friday so this was it,” Dragons head coach Brandon Runk said following the game Wednesday. “We missed a lot of lay-ups and we didn’t box out very well, but the team knows it and come Friday we will be alright. This was a great crowd tonight, probably the best crowd we have ever had, honestly. It was great, we had baseball teams come out, the eighth grade team was here, the J.V. was here, we had a lot of support. This is about the third or fourth year in a row that we have faced the Guns and Hoses. I really appreciate those guys coming out. They don’t just lay down for us, they come out and give us a really good effort.”
The Fayette County Special Olympics Division II basketball team landed its spot in the state Final Four on March 4 by defeating Columbus Black to win the East Championship. They will also travel to Dover where they will play at the Dover Middle School on Friday at 8 p.m. to compete in their first Final Four game.
“If we play team basketball we will be alright in these games,” Runk said. “If we start being selfish it is going to be a long road. As long as we keep our heads and play as a team, we will be fine.”
Tim Stewart, Community First Coordinator/Special Olympics Coordinator for the Fayette County Board of DD, said the varsity team has made it to the state tournament about four times now, but to send two teams to state is unbelievable.
“I didn’t think I would see it happen, so it’s great to see them make it,” Stewart said. “I couldn’t do this without the coaches. The time and effort they put in to everything they do. The heart and dedication….it’s absolutely awesome to see. The fact that they are in it just as much as the players is pretty remarkable. I really appreciate the great crowd we had tonight, I think it was the biggest we have had yet. It was an awesome atmosphere and great pep rally before they go on to the state tournament.”
Finally, Stewart and the Fayette County Board of DD would also like to remind the community of the upcoming Dwight Turner Memorial Spaghetti dinner at the Commission on Aging this Saturday. Dwight was well-known within the community and was a great supporter of Fayette County Special Olympics up until the time of his passing. This year’s dinner will include spaghetti and meatballs, salad, bread stick, dessert and a drink. There will also be a silent auction/raffle at the dinner (those in attendance do not need to be present to win) and a 50/50 drawing. Advance tickets are $5 and tickets at the door will cost $6 and are still available. Children 12 and under can eat for $3.
Contact the Fayette County Board of DD at 740-335-7453 for more information.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy