By Halle Newman
The BHS Unified Basketball team took on their fifth game of the year yesterday, marking the second half of their eight-game season. The team is comprised of students of all abilities and grades, embodying the BHS motto of “all are welcome”.
This game was pivotal for the team’s season.
“We’re at two [wins] and two [losses],” Michael Leonard, a BHS paraeducator and the coach of the BHS Unified basketball team said. “We’re building stamina over the course of a long season.”
The BHS team got to the gym about twenty minutes before the game to warm up while they waited for the MMU team.
“I think they’re going to be very good competitors, but we’ll come out with a win.” Jonathan Ishimwe, a Junior said before the game. Rosters for the athletes on the MMU and BHS team were passed out to spectators so everyone could cheer for players, regardless of their team.
BHS started the game off strong. Devin Ryea (senior), Cody Reed (freshman), Maizey LaBounty (senior), Seamus Stein (senior), and Theo Buker (senior) all scored two-pointers for BHS within the first quarter. Words of support, praise, and compliments echoed down the court as BHS earned 12 points (against MMU’s 4) within the first quarter.
“Everyone is talking a lot we have a lot of communication,” Ruby Wool, a BHS sophomore said during halftime. “[MMU has] a really good team.”
MMU players Thad Dutil and Matt Winnay scored two more points before Reed and Ryea snatched the ball back for BHS. The gym erupted with cheers when Ryea shot a perfect 3-pointer.
“I thought it wasn’t going to go in at first,” Ryea said later, reflecting on the shot that made the game. “But then I swished it.”
With LaBounty taking defense and Buker, Stein, and Pascale Ngoma scoring on offense, BHS ended the second quarter with a score of 23-16.
“The game is going great. People are having opportunities and having a lot of fun,” Reed said during halftime. “People are helping each other out and having so much fun.”
The team was full of smiles as they took a break from the game.
“We’re all energetic,” Ryea said of the BHS team. “Every time we shoot we give high fives.”
The supportive environment on the court extends beyond just the team. Students, teachers, parents, and community members showed up to support BHS Unified as well.
“The whole program is absolutely phenomenal,” Billy Ray Poli, the BHS chorus teacher said. He said he does his best to come to the games and support the students. Many other teachers popped in and out of the game to cheer for BHS.
“Our past couple of wins have been great,” Wool said before heading out to the court for the third quarter. She said her highlight of the season was coming together as a team.“The bus rides are always really fun.”
BHS dove into the third quarter with a score by Reed, followed by scores from Buker and LaBounty. By the end of the quarter, BHS was still ahead with a score of 31-20.
BHS gave all they had in last quarter of the game. Buker, Ryea, and Stein shot two-pointer after two-pointer, while Ngoma, Manny Dodson (senior), Wool, and LaBounty took on defense. Winnay and Dutil of MMU gave BHS a run for their money, gaining twelve more points before the end of the game.
In the last seconds of the game, LaBounty sent the ball flying through the net, leaving BHS with a win of 47-32 and the fan section of the bleachers in thunderous applause.
“This is one of the better games we’ve had,” Dodson said.
To Brian Williams, BHS English teacher, the scorekeeper and announcer for Unified games, the sport is not about winning.
“Even though they keep score, the level of support and generosity and sportsmanship is so high that for all these kids even if they lose, they win.” Williams said.
“[Unified is] my favorite activity that I do,” Dodson said. “It’s a way to play basketball and help other people enjoy a sport that I love.”
Howard Harper, a BHS Unified alumni who is now the assistant coach, beamed with pride after the game.
“[We’ll] Definitely work on some defense,” Harper said, reflecting on the game. “[We were] great on rebounding.”
Moving forward, the team is energized and ready to take on the rest of their season. Their next game is April 9th (next Tuesday) at South Burlington High School.
“Let’s keep goin’!” Buker said.
Correction: The Register originally tweeted that the score was 47-38, but has since clarified that the score was 47-32.