At Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) basketball Godby capped of a perfect season on Thursday with an overtime victory against Cardinal Newman and that wasn’t the best game of the day. Not even close.
There may have been more dunks, or overall more baskets in the Cougars title game, but when Plant City’s Unified Sports team took on Seabreeze, followed by Lake Gibson vs. Winter Park, those games brought down the house.
The top boys high school teams in the state converged on Lakeland this week, but they weren’t the biggest show in town. The Special Olympics Unified Sports teams stole the show.
For the first time during championship week, the FHSAA showcased Special Olympics basketball. Players were introduced before the game, played a full four quarters of action and received medals afterward. Just like the other Final Four participants.
“That was the whole idea behind it, for them to follow our procedures, our policies and do everything we do with everyone else,” said Dale Klaus, the FHSAA Director of Athletics. “It’s really been a fascinating experience.”
And rewarding and inspirational, but most of all, educational.
“Everybody deserves to play interscholastic sports no matter your disability, no matter where you’re from, your color, creed or race,” said Darrell Taylor, Special Olympics Project Unify Manager. “Everyone is equal and this is the first step in the right direction of creating equality across the state of Florida in sports.”
Plant City’s Thomas Shervington loves basketball. His favorite player is Michael Jordan, because of the way he dunks.
Shervington couldn’t help but show off his medal after his team won the consolation championship. And he couldn’t help smiling.
“I’m going to put it with all my other Special Olympic medals,” he said. "This is the best."
Winter Park went on to win the overall championship.
Katherine Smith, Bright House Sports Network