Cheers erupted from the blue-colored bleachers as basketball player, Jamie Wilson, threw his arms in the air as he ran past the section of students at Marana High School. The second quarter had just ended and the Special Olympics athletes at Marana trailed their opponent by but a few points.
The Marana Special Olympics basketball team fought hard against their opponent, the Marana Police Department, as they pressured the ball on defense and seized the opportune moments to fast break down the court. Despite their efforts, the Marana Police Department squeezed on a close victory 22-20.
“I knew they’d give us a run for our money,” said Patrol Officer Erin Ysaguirre. “They did great and they definitely played hard and were very excited. Every time they made a basket you could tell how happy they were –that makes our day and makes our job better.”
For the first time this year the Marana Police Department and the Picture Rocks Fire District took part in helping prepare the Marana Special Olympics basketball team by scrimmaging them a week before their state competition. The firefighters and law enforcement officers scrimmaged Marana on separate days for about an hour.
“It’s just great,” said Dr. Allison Murphy, the principal at Marana High School. “What is really special about Marana High School is that we have a great school community. Our students are really good to each other and they’re just really supportive.”
The 10 volunteers from the Marana Police Department were just as supportive and excited about the opportunity to be able to impact the athletes in a positive way.
“We’re really excited about it and had quite a few (volunteers) respond back,” said Lilly Shepherd, community resource officer with the Marana Police Department. “It’s something they wanted to give back to the kids.”
Keri Sanford, one of the coaches for the Special Olympics team reinforces how meaningful it is for the athletes to have the police officers and firefighters take time away to play basketball against them.
“I think it just makes the kids feel important that someone cares enough to come in. That’s all they’re talking about,” said Sanford.
The Marana Special Olympic athletes sent 18 athletes to compete at the Arizona Special Olympics Coronado Area Basketball and Cheerleading Competition on Saturday, Feb. 1 at Sporting Chance Center on 2100 West Curtis Road. Eleven of those athletes played on the basketball team while the other seven competed in individual events. The Special Olympics brought home a gold medal for the team competition and a gold, bronze and two fifth place ribbons in the individual skills competition.