For basketball fans, or even for fans of just, like, general humanity, it was very exciting. It was very, very exciting.
To put it in perspective, it was the only time I’ve ever seen Point photographer/infamous Inuit/burrito enthusiast Shaun M. Lambert actually run.
One side of the gymnasium at Indian River High School, with a packed house last Thursday, Feb. 9, was a metaphorical sea of blue and gold. The other, an equally as metaphorical sea of green and gold.
They were there to see the Indians take on Sussex Central in a double-header basketball game, first the girls’ and then boys’ varsity squads in their yearly district-rivalry games.
But between that double-header was another game, and a pretty historic one at that. Historic in the sense of not only causing infamous Eskimos to both run up and down the court and also take an uncharacteristic pass on a half-time cheeseburger at the concession stand, but also in the sense of serving as the Henlopen Conference’s first Unified basketball game for players with special needs.
Not to get all “you should have been there” on you, but if you weren’t there, you really should have been.
The Gold team ended up beating the Green team, 14-12, but the final score didn’t much matter, because you can believe me when I said that everyone who got to be anywhere near that game ended up winning.
No one was rooting specifically for the Green team. No one was rooting specifically for the Gold team. Everyone was just rooting.
Scoring his first career basket on the night, and receiving a roaring ovation from the crowd, regardless of metaphorical sea color, as a result, was IR senior Josh Timmons. Timmons helped make Thursday’s game a reality by advocating basketball as a Unified sport to IR athletic director Todd Fuhrmann.
You may also know Josh from the Indian River High School soccer team, River’s TOPSoccer program, the local honey game, and as the unofficial conductor of the IR marching band. (Honestly, you should really pick up the Coastal Point more often if you don’t know who Josh is.)
I got to catch up with him after the game and after his first career basket, kind of like I did after his second career goal this past fall.
It went like this:
Me: Josh, how’d the game go?
Josh: The game went great. I’ve [played basketball] for about three years.
Me: Tell me about your basket.
Josh: My dad taught me to shoot. I’m getting good. I practice every day.
Me: Tell me about your coaches.
Josh: They were super-good. They helped me a lot.
Me: Anything else you want to say?
Josh: Yes. I just want to say I did good. I’ve worked very hard. And I did it for my mother.
Josh was, understandably, as excited as the rest of us after the game, including Shaun, who even after several more interviews still hadn’t caught his breath.
But perhaps even more exciting than all of Thursday’s excitement is the fact that, after the game’s success, the road for more Unified sports, at not only IR but schools across the Henlopen Conference, has officially been paved.
Indian River has already been involved in Unified track-and-field for the past few seasons and next year will aim to add flag football in the fall, as well as a possible six-game basketball season next winter.
Teaming up with Unified athletes such as Timmons to help make it all possible is IR junior and field hockey/soccer standout Sammi Whelen, who coached the Gold team during last Thursday’s game, along with IR freshman and field hockey teammate Kaleigh “K-Hall” Hall coaching the Green team.
“It’s a great thing to get involved in. Even just putting an hour of your time, you can see how much it means,” said Whelen, noting that she was glad to see Unified sports taking off at IR.
“It’s definitely been a great experience,” she went on. “Yesterday during practice, one of the kids said that he finally felt like he was part of a team. That was awesome to hear. We’re hoping more people from the community get involved.”
While nothing is official just yet, I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to Unified sports, the future looks pretty exciting. I guess that means Shaun better get in shape…