APS basketball team earns runner-up honors at Special Olympics’ Indoor Winter Games

Atlanta Public Schools’ Warriors basketball team earned second place and a silver medal during the recent Special Olympics’ State Indoor Winter Games in Marietta. With only seven players on the roster, the Warriors didn’t have much time to rest, and yet they made it to the final round.

In that final game, against a team from DeKalb County, APS trailed by only two points for most of the game, and ended up short, 26-22. “It was very exciting!” said Regina Gennaro, APS’ liaison for the Special Olympics out of the Program for Exceptional Children. “This was only our second year participating in a state event where we finished very quickly last year. We made a huge improvement this year!”

The APS team consists of North Atlanta High students Kirby Broughton, Carrie Crayton (the team’s only female), Travis Greene, Robert Perdue, Jermaine Russell and Aquinas Tolan, and Joe Woodward from The New Schools at Carver. (Another North Atlanta student, Mike Hightower, missed the game due to an injury.) Coaches are North Atlanta’s Lisa Oglesby and Nic Hill.

Some interesting notes from the tournament, after the jump …

* There were five teams in the same division in the double-elimination tournament. APS won its first game on Jan. 21 with a score of 28-19 against a team from Walton County.
* The second game, against Cobb County, was at 9 a.m., Jan. 22. The APS team led the entire game and won 36-4.
* Later that afternoon, they faced a very tough team from DeKalb County, and stayed with them right to the end before losing 26-19.
* Since the Warrios only had one loss, they had to play again at 9 p.m. against Forsyth County. One of the Warriors got ill, reducing the active roster to only six players! Yet they persevered, winning 27-5. “They played like a team, passing and moving the ball around,” Gennaro said. “It was great to see such team work, and they were tired!”
* With a win from the previous evening, the APS team faced a rematch with DeKalb County, which became the only team to which APS lost, on Sunday morning. “With little rest our team played like champions, moving the ball down the court, passing and working the ball in,” Gennaro said. “We were trailing by two points the whole game and ended up losing 28-24. We really gave it our all and I was so proud of them. It was tough with ‘no bench’ to substitute and give our players a rest.”

The state competition offers APS students a great opportunity to compete against other athletes with similar abilities making for some excellent competition, Gennaro noted.

“It is a tremendous growing experience for them, too, where they learn to be apart of a team, to challenge themselves to increase their skill level and get stronger, as well as gain the drive to want to win but also learning how to lose,” she said. “These are some concepts not necessarily learned in the classroom but essential for a well rounded student. Last year, they didn’t like losing so quickly, so this year they practiced hard for weeks and pushed themselves physically and mentally and it made a huge difference. I could tell they were proud of themselves, too.”

The coaches put in countless hours working with the team, but never complained. As long as there was the desire, the coaches were there to work with the athletes; to better themselves and teach them how to work as a team, which really paid off. It was great to see how they had grown as a team over the last few months.

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