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

Vardy gives Puel perfect start as Leicester boss

first_imgDespite a poor start to the season that cost Craig Shakespeare his job, Leicester’s third win of the campaign lifts them to the relative safety of 11th in the table while Everton, who parted company with Ronald Koeman earlier this week, are mired in the relegation zone.“I was impressed with my players,” said Leicester boss Claude Puel. “It was a very good first half and there were good combinations between the players for the first goal.“It was more difficult in the second half because Everton are good. But I saw a team with a good attitude and good structure and solidarity.“I want to say thanks to our fantastic fans for their warm welcome. It was a day that was perfect but it’s just the beginning I hope of something.”The home side took the lead in the 18th minute following a surging run by Gray, who picked up the ball deep in his own half, skipped past a couple of challenges and raced over the halfway line before releasing Riyad Mahrez on the right.Mahrez crossed for Vardy to blast into the roof of the net, sending the King Power Stadium into raptures.The rampant hosts were 2-0 up 11 minutes later when Jonjoe Kenny sliced Gray’s effort from the left into the far corner of his own net past the helpless Jordan Pickford.Brighton’s striker Glenn Murray (L) wins this header to score against Southampton on October 29, 2017 © AFP / Glyn KIRKIt initially appeared to be an own goal but was awarded to Gray — who has struggled to pin down a first-team place — following a review.– Everton changes –Everton’s caretaker boss David Unsworth made a double change at half-time, bringing on Oumar Niasse and Beni Baningime for Aaron Lennon and Kevin Mirallas but although his team were brighter, Leicester kept them at arm’s length, limiting clear-cut chances.The away team enjoyed the bulk of the possession as the game wore on and Unsworth brought on Gylfi Sigurdsson for Wayne Rooney with just over a quarter of an hour still to play, but it was Leicester who were again the more threatening side in the closing stages.“I went with the best team to try to win. The first half wasn’t acceptable, but the second half we didn’t get the rewards that our dominance justified,” said Unsworth.“Whoever gets the honour of being Everton boss, including me, needs time with this set of players.”Earlier, Brighton and Hove Albion recovered from conceding an early goal to draw 1-1 with Southampton in a dull clash of south-coast rivals, a result that leaves both clubs in mid-table.Southampton took the lead in the seventh minute when Steven Davis pounced after a brilliant free-kick from James Ward-Prowse came back off the woodwork.Newly-promoted Brighton levelled shortly after the break when Glenn Murray headed in a Pascal Gross cross from the right at the back post.On Saturday, Manchester City won their eighth consecutive Premier League match to maintain their five-point lead over rivals Manchester United.Pep Guardiola’s free-scoring side beat West Bromwich Albion 3-2 away from home, after a late Anthony Martial goal was enough for United to edge third-placed Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 at Old Trafford.Elsewhere, there were wins for Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool as the ‘Big Six’ began to flex their muscles, now occupying the top six places in the table.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Leicester City’s striker Jamie Vardy (C) scores against Everton on October 29, 2017 © AFP / Paul ELLISLONDON, United Kingdom, Oct 29 – Jamie Vardy gave Claude Puel the perfect start to his Leicester City reign on Sunday as the former Premier league champions returned to their counter-attacking best, brushing aside managerless Everton 2-0.In a throwback to their 2015-16 title-winning season, Leicester caused problems for the visitors from the start, breaking with pace and purpose as Demarai Gray proved a real handful for the struggling Merseyside team.last_img read more