The Garner boys basketball team will have some unusual preparation for Saturday night’s 4A state championship game.
Friday morning at 9 a.m., the Trojans will report to the Garner gym and become cheerleaders for their fellow students.
Each year, the school’s adaptive physical education classes play what it calls The March Madness Game.
The adaptive students organize the game, form the teams and promote the game within the school. There will be a pep band and friends and families have been invited.
The game is much bigger than the state championship for some students.
“The students work all year on the skills they need to play this game,” said Jane House, a former high school girls basketball coach and Garner’s adaptive P.E. teacher. “To them, this is a really big deal.”
The game was created after a student with Down’s Syndrome asked if there was a game that he could play in that was similar to Garner’s annual student-faculty game.
There wasn’t, but one was soon started.
Garner boys basketball coach Eddie Gray has supported The March Madness Game in the past and encouraged his players to go, but the varsity season usually is over by this time of year. This will be the first time the team has attended en masse.
The varsity team will be introduced at halftime, but Gray doesn’t want anything to detract from the real stars of the day. This is no pep rally, he said. The players have been told that this game is not about them.
“Here we are going to play in the Smith Center for a state championship and at the same time these other students have been working all year just to have the chance to play a game,” Gray said. “A game. Just to play. It chokes me up. I can’t imagine this not touching you. My players are so lucky and hope they realize it.”
“To me, this shows the real meaning of sport – learning to strive to be your best, working together, setting goals. I am so honored to have my team attend.”
House said the team’s attendance would be important to the adaptive P.E. students.
“This says a lot about coach Gray and his commitment to the children,” House said. “At a moment when all eyes are focused on his team, he wants people to see something else.”
Future teammates: Southeast Raleigh and Charlotte Myers Park, who will play in the NCHSAA 4A girls basketball championship game on Saturday, will be well represented in the Carolinas All Star Basketball Classic on March 28 in Socastee, S.C.
All-star boys and girls basketball teams from North and South Carolina will play each other.
Among the North Carolina girls are Southeast’s Amber Richardson and Jade Phillips. Myers Park’s Aliyah Mazyck and Rydeiah Rogers also are on the squad.
Chapel Hill’s Raziyah Farrington, who will play in the 3A finals, is on the team along with Broughton’s Kaila Ealey, Athens Drive’s Grace Hunter, Durham Riverside’s Mone’ Jones and Durham Hillside’s Justine Lyon.
Broughton’s Jerome Robinson and Northern Durham’s Kentrell Barkley also are on the club.
National tournament: The Myers Park girls basketball team is ranked among the top teams in the country and would like to play in the Dick’s Sporting Goods National Championship in New York City after the NCHSAA title game.
The school has requested a waiver from the NCHSAA’s policy that the season ends with the state champion. The NCHSAA staff denied the request and Myers Park has appealed the executive committee.
The NCHSAA requires teams to disband after the state championships. For example, track and cross country athletes who compete in national championships after the NCHSAA finals cannot compete for their schools, but compete as individuals or as members of club teams.
No-hitter: Cardinal Gibbons freshman pitcher Claire Zureich struck out 17 in a 2-0 victory over Green Hope on Tuesday. She walked a couple batters.