Unified basketball gets time in spotlight Saturday

149

BOULDER | Unified basketball has delighted crowds at schools throughout the season, often drawing as many spectators as varsity games themselves.

The sport — which mixes students with intellectual disabilities and typically developing ones together — has grown in popularity in Aurora and around Colorado with the backing of Special Olympics Colorado.

Regis Jesuit, which fields a Unified team for the first time this year, gets to play against Fossil Ridge in a demonstration game at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Coors Events Center in Boulder, just after the same two schools meet to decide the Class 5A girls state basketball championship at 3 p.m.

“Special Olympics Colorado is thrilled to see CHSAA embrace the values of our Project UNIFY and Unified Sports school-based efforts,” Mindy Watrous, president and CEO of Special Olympics Colorado, said in a statement.

“CHSAA is recognized around the country as one of the early supporters of school-based Unified Sports, and its leadership understands the connection between our programs and the influence they have throughout the school in developing an inclusive culture that will help break down social barriers and decrease bullying,” she added.

“We are excited to be one of the first states to showcase our athletes’ skills and capabilities through national exposure on CHSAA.TV and the National High School Federation websites when two of our Special Olympics Unified Sports teams compete at one of Colorado’s biggest sporting events of the year.”

The Special Olympics Club started a Project UNIFY team between the Boys and Girls divisions at Regis Jesuit this year. The team — made up of six special needs athletes, nine abled students four student coaches, two each from the Boys and Girls divisions — played eight games against other squads from Continental League schools.

“What’s truly beautiful about our team is how seamlessly it came together. There is a real unity between our students and the athletes they partner with on the team,” Jane Whitley, moderator of the Girls Division Special Olympics Club, said in a statement.

“The growth in everyone involved, not only physically and as athletes, but also spiritually and emotionally is truly amazing,” she added.

Before the demonstration game in the evening, the Regis Jesuit team will compete in the  Special Olympics Colorado State Tournament in the morning at the Gold Crown Field House along with several others teams from Aurora.

Grandview — which fields a Blue and Black team — Overland and Smoky Hill also will play in the state tournament.

Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorsports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel