Creswell, Sports Zone

Undefeated, untied & unified – Creswell team sweeps through Special Olympics

Top, from left: Coach Risa Bryant, Cody Pellerin, Jackson Fetters, Akasha Lawson, Jax Schoolcraft, Autumn Porter, Donovan Woods, Seth Handman, Logan Gordon and Owen Conway. Not pictured: William Craft and Sahayla Downard. Gini Davis/The Chronicle

The Chronicle
CRESWELL – Students who may never have thought of themselves as potential ”student-athletes” are getting the opportunity to be part of a team and enjoy competitive success as members of Creswell High School’s unified basketball team – part of an inclusive Special Olympics Unified Sports program that welcomes Life Skills and other students with special physical or intellectual needs served by an IEP (Individualized Education Program).
The 11 students on the CHS unified basketball team are making the most of this opportunity: the team went 3-0 to place first at the OSU Regional Unified Basketball Tournament on Feb. 22 in Corvallis.
Their final game, against Newport’s unified team, delivered as much nail-biting excitement as any close, high-stakes basketball game: ”We won on a buzzer-beater by Seth Handman,” avoiding overtime, said head coach Risa Bryant. The final score was 48-46.
Creswell also beat Sutherlin 52-43 and Crater 60-33.
In the two regular-season tournaments leading up to Regionals, the team went 2-1 and 1-2.
Creswell’s unified basketball program started last year, spearheaded by Bryant, her fellow educational assistant Jody Pyles and former assistant principal/athletic director Alan Stearns, who has since left the district. Pyles continues as Bryant’s assistant coach.
Boys and girls in grades 9-12 play on the same team. Creswell players include senior Jackson Fetters; juniors Owen Conway, Handman, Donovan Woods and William Craft; and freshmen Sahayla Downard, Akasha Lawson, Autumn Porter and Jax Schoolcraft.
”I think it brings a higher level of confidence that maybe these kids didn’t have before, to be part of a team,” Bryant said.
Sophomores Logan Gordon and Cody Pellerin serve as ”partners,” taking the court alongside team members to facilitate plays and remind players who to guard, where to go, etc., as needed.
Logan and Cody both played basketball in the past, and when she asked them about becoming partners for the unified team, ”both jumped at the idea,” Bryant said.
”It’s really beneficial to the partners to be part of something like this, too,” she added. ”They become advocates for the players, and it raises their understanding of what these kids go through.”
She sees real bonding happening between players and partners, too: ”I definitely see the ‘inclusion’ that’s the main goal,” Bryant said. ”I see the partners walking down the hall and players giving them high-fives and are comfortable talking to them – these kids who may not have many friends or a lot of social opportunities.”
And Bryant, a former Creswell basketball player herself whose first job at CHS was as a one-on-one aide to a Life Skills student, says she finds herself benefiting from the unified basketball experience as much as her players and partners.
”The unified basketball season is the highlight of my year – to see these kids improve, and know they’re improving, and their smiles when they do something good is really rewarding,” she said.



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