Playing to win

Blazers show character, determination in competitive league

A group of adult Special Olympics athletes with a desire to play competitive basketball recently showed their abilities, playing hard while still having fun and showing good sportsmanship.

The Blount County Blazers, a group of independent Special Olympics adults, played at the regional tournament for the newly-created competitive basketball league on Feb. 13 at Maryville College.

Cookie Crowson, assistant director of Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation, said this league is different from the Area 15 competition that was held on Feb. 24. “This is the Area 15 Special Olympics Independent Competitive Basketball league,” she said. “They are a group of independent adult men who had an interest in playing more than one time a year.”

“We were very, very pleased,” Crowson said. “Our guys did really well. They played two games. In the earlier games, the competition we were facing was a group of older co-ed adults, and the score really got to be one-sided.”

The tournament was a regional one with 13 teams competing. “This was all for fun, and it gave people the opportunity to just play for fun. Our folks’ eyes were dancing with excitement. It was a wonderful day,” Crowson said. “It gave them the opportunity to work hard but also the opportunity to help other folks who weren’t going to be as successful without the help. They felt good they were able to help others be successful.”

Crowson said it was during the first game that the Blazers’ players really showed good character as they outpaced and outplayed their opponents. “Our guys were able to move much better up the court. Our guys just got to where they tossed the ball back to them and said, ‘Try again.’ They were great sports and tried to be helpful to the other team,” she said. “Our guys just stepped it up and were the heroes of the day. They made sure those folks had the opportunity when they brought the ball down the court. If they didn’t make the shot, they gave them an opportunity to continue shooting.”

Crowson said in the second game their opponent picked up the pace. “We were paired with another team who were unified, meaning they had three Special Olympics athletes and two who were not, and we knew they were going to be a challenge,” she said. “Our guys needed playing time with good competition. It was tight and whoever got the ball last was going to score. It was a real competitive situation, and we saw where our strengths and weaknesses might occur.”

Crowson said the team is preparing to compete at the state-level competition on March 12 and 13. “It is amazing how they’ve grown as a group and how their skill levels have increased,” she said.

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