Unified basketball a positive addition for Ellsworth, Bucksport

first_img Latest posts by Mike Mandell (see all) Hospice volunteers help families navigate grief and find hope – September 12, 2020 MPA approves golf, XC, field hockey, soccer; football, volleyball moved to spring – September 10, 2020 ELLSWORTH — As an errant pass sent a basketball flying out of bounds, a group of students in Ellsworth’s Katsiaficas Gymnasium couldn’t be bothered. Instead, they had their eyes on something else.Toward midcourt was something shiny that clearly didn’t belong on the gym floor. It was a can of spinach that belonged to one of the school’s most legendary figures, Brian Higgins. For whatever reason, Higgins had taken it onto the court with him and set it down during a play.“T him up!” one of the students yelled. It was senior Scott Firley, a member of the school’s unified basketball team. Although there wasn’t a referee — it was, after all, an exhibition game between the team and Ellsworth High School staff members — the scoreboard operator stopped the clock immediately to assess Higgins the technical foul as the players and fans laughed.Firley, of course, was merely jesting. So too was the scoreboard operator, who had been teasing the teachers throughout the game by awarding points to the unified team when they weren’t looking. Unified basketball is about having fun, and when these players are on the court, they’re doing exactly that.This is placeholder textThis is placeholder text“This was just a really cool way for us to wrap up the season,” Ellsworth head coach Matt Wibberly said. “Just to see those kids’ faces light up, it’s really special. Every single person who came out here had a blast today.”Ellsworth and Bucksport have recently concluded their first seasons of unified basketball, which pairs players with developmental disabilities — “unified” players, hence the name — with partnership students. In the eyes of nearly everybody involved, the unified version of the sport has been a success.Games are scored the same as they are in regular basketball games, though unified players must score at least 75 percent of a given team’s point total. Unlike Ellsworth’s exhibition game between the team and staff members last week, only students are allowed to participate in official games.The Maine Principals’ Association first sanctioned unified basketball in 2015, and it has already become popular throughout the state. Forty-five schools currently have teams, and after Mount Desert Island became the first in Hancock County to sponsor the even last year, word of its success spread to other schools in the area.“Once you have the kids who want to play, it’s so worth it,” Bucksport Athletic Director Ed Hatch said. “Everyone involved gets into it. It’s probably the only sport I’ve ever watched where all the fans are cheering on every player for both teams.”One benefit unified basketball has that isn’t available in other sports is the fact that athletic directors can choose which teams their schools play. Both Bucksport and Ellsworth played each other and MDI twice each this season to help each other fill out their schedules and make travel times for each team much more convenient.“The most important thing about it is that we give kids opportunities, and that’s what we have in mind when we schedule,” Hatch said. “When you’re able to put together your own [schedules], you don’t really have to worry about going far to play games and wondering how you’re going to cram in certain games and all that. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing as long as you’re giving kids the chance.”Standings are kept using the same Heal system the MPA uses for other events. Unlike other sports, though, there are no class sizes — just Northern and Southern Maine regions.Teams play between five and eight games per season, which runs from early February through mid-March. From there, teams that are eligible for the playoffs compete for state and regional championships, the latter of which Bucksport won when it defeated Foxcroft 59-54 to claim the Northern Maine title March 21.As the team bus arrived back home upon its return from Dover-Foxcroft that evening, a motorcade consisting of police cruisers and fire trucks was there to guide it back to the school to greet the fans. Bucksport celebrates every championship that way, and this time was no different.“I thought [the players] were going to tip the bus over because they were jumping up and down and hanging out the windows,” Hatch said. “I’ve never seen a group of kids so excited about anything. They were fired up.”Win or lose, players leave games with smiles on their faces. Because games are eight minutes longer and more loosely officiated than in varsity play, most end with every player on both teams having scored at least once.Partnership players make sure of that, too. Regardless of which team is on offense or defense at the time, it’s a common sight to see players on both teams giving the ball to one another near the hoop so that every unified player on both teams can make a basket.“It’s been pretty neat to see the friendships that develop and the support that exists between [the partnership players and unified players],” Ellsworth Athletic Director Josh Frost said. “Both of them, when they leave after the game, they’re grinning from ear to ear.”For now, basketball is the only unified sport that has become official at the MPA level. Yet Hatch said the MPA is planning to add unified track next season and plans to consider other sports in the future.“At this point, [unified basketball] has been a success everywhere, and we know it’s possible to make unified sports even bigger,” Hatch said. “Every time we host these games, it’s the highlight of the day for me.”That’s true everywhere. The joy unified players experience when they see and hear coaches and fans cheering them on is something you don’t see every day, as was the look on Wibberly’s face when one of his players, Alysse Frye, made a pair of NBA-range 3-pointers in the second half against the EHS staff.Although Mr. Higgins finished the game with just two points, his opponents fared much better. Even when the added points were taken away, the unified team still outscored the EHS staff 78-56. Better yet, every player scored.“What matters more than anything is your character,” Wibberly said. “Every one of these kids has more of it than anyone can ever know.” Mike MandellMike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]center_img Ellsworth runners compete in virtual Boston Marathon – September 16, 2020 Bio Latest Postslast_img read more

Field hockey Warriors defeat Baldwinsville, 1-0

first_img Tags: C-NSfield hockeyliverpool Though it was playing defense most of the way, Liverpool made a rare attack pay off in the first half when Emily Haskins, off a feed from Riley Techmanski, put a shot past B’ville goalie Sara Smiley.All through the rest of the half, plus the entire second half, the Warriors turned back all of the Bees’ attempts to pull even, goalie McKenna Ecker stopping all six shots she faced.Two nights later, Liverpool visited East Syracuse Minoa and saw things completely turn around as the Warriors lost 4-0 to the Spartans. Plenty has gone well for first-year head coach Molly Brown at her alma mater, but the Liverpool field hockey team reached a new peak in last Monday’s match at Baldwinsville.Against a Bees side mired in a long scoring drought, the Warriors didn’t let the Bees break out of it and, with a single tally was able to earn a 1-0 victory.It was quite a turnaround from their first encounter Sept. 9 at LHS Stadium, which B’ville claimed 4-1. Defensive adjustments and a much better end-to-end effort helped the Warriors in the rematch.center_img A first-half scoring barrage saw ESM get a pair of goals from Angelina Dodge, plus goals from Abby Herrington and Grace Stone. Mary Searle assisted on three of those goals as, in defeat, Ecker recorded 11 saves.Liverpool’s last regular-season game is Wednesday against visiting Cicero-North Syracuse, who had its own big match last Wednesday night at Bragman Stadium when it tried to upend SCAC leader Fayetteville-Manlius.The Hornets had started 9-0-1 before taking a 6-0 defeat to reigning state Class C champion Whitney Point on Sept. 28. But when C-NS and F-M first met on Sept. 11, a goal by Lucy Fowler late in regulation allowed the Hornets to pull it out 1-0.It was the Northstars jumping out in front in the rematch 1-0 thanks to Chrissy Wagner’s goal, but it did not hold. The Hornets tied it, 1-1, by halftime, and then inched out in front in the second half, hanging on to claim a 2-1 decision.C-NS would now rest until its match with Liverpool, which precedes a Friday-night visit from Camden.Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInRedditComment on this Story last_img read more