A Slam Dunk for SSN Programs: The First Annual Unified Basketball Game Recap

A collective “OOOOOH” rises from the student section in anticipation of a basket. The ball swishes through the hoop, met with roarous cheering and the Unified Basketball player stands victorious on the court.

by Emily Wilson and Kira Zizzo

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Middle schooler Leah Bishop celebrates the start of the Unified Basketball Game by giving a smile and a wave to the Junior class section in the gym Jan. 22. The teams ran back and forth across the gym, for the duration of seminar and the start of access, supported by fellow students dressed in black to show their support. “The kids in the special needs program are also a part of our school and we should all contribute and make them feel welcome,” Diya Vinod ‘21 said.

photo by Emily Wilson
David Keefe ‘23 beams after making a basket during the second half of the Unified Basketball Game in the gym Jan. 22. The game spread awareness about the special needs program at Rock Canyon and Rocky Heights. “Our students who are a part of our special needs program don’t always get the opportunity to be fully involved in the activities and school events and all of the awesome things we do,” Principal Andy Abner said. “So, I think it’s really awesome that they get to be included in such a positive event and I think it’s great for the rest of our student body to recognize these Jaguars at our school.”

photo by Emily Wilson
Golden Boy Dani Haddad ‘20 shows his support during the Unified Basketball Game by holding up a poster of one of the players Jan. 22. Preparation for the game took careful planning and attention to detail. Posters were created by students and staff to add another exciting element to the day. “Preparation as far as making sure kids were aware, parents were aware, and they could come and support was a big part of it.” SSN teacher Debbie Rochau said.

photo by Kira Zizzo
Chloe Bishop, a player for the Rocky Heights Unified Team congratulates opposing team member, Jatin Thimmannagari ‘23 after he scored a basket on the court during the first Annual Unified Basketball Game Jan. 22. There was no score taken during the game. Both teams supported and cheered for each other, sharing smiles and laughs. “I loved everything about today. Seeing parents watching our kids get excited and the alignment with middle school was great. There was awareness and inclusion,” SSN teacher Debbie Rochau said.

photo by Kira Zizzo
In the gym, Nathan Smith ‘22 holds up his homemade sign and cheers in support of the Unified Basketball players at their First Annual Unified Basketball Game Jan. 22. In addition to handmade posters, bystanders held up large cutouts of players’ heads during the game. “I think that it’s important that everyone feels empowered here and I think that supporting them is the best way to do that,” Elena Song ‘22 said.

photo by Kira Zizzo
David Keefe ‘23 bursts through the “Go Jags!” banner in the gym during his team’s introduction at the First Annual Unified Basketball Game Jan. 22. In the past, the Unified Basketball team’s basketball hoops were trash cans, but their equipment was upgraded with adapted basketball hoops for optimum accessibility for all students. “We’re trying to change the culture of Unified Basketball. Every day, it’s a challenge for them to be heard, to be respected and to compete in sports, but they push themselves every day past all those challenges,” Unified Basketball Coach Jerome Price said.

photo by Kira Zizzo
Chloe Bishop, a Rocky Heights Unified Basketball team member gapes in awe and celebration of the basket she scored, with encouragement from fellow Rocky Heights player, Gabriel Mascitti and Kyler Kirby ‘20 in the gym at the First Annual Unified Basketball Game Jan. 22. The choir, band, and POMS team performed in support of both teams and math teacher, Brian Lamb was the sports announcer for the game. “I love to see all of the smiles and see all of the fun that everybody has. It’s just a great event.” Principal Andy Abner said.

photo by Kira Zizzo
Kyler Kirby ‘20 dribbles the ball up the court during the First Annual Unified Basketball Game Jan. 22. The Rock Canyon team consists of nine players who work during their PE periods with Coach Lynch and Coach Price to prepare for the game. “This was such a fun event. Everyone in the school got together and supported our fellow jaguars,” Caleb Herskovits ‘22 said.

photo by Kira Zizzo
On the court, Rocky Heights player, Leah Bishop commemorates her first basket of the First Annual Unified Basketball Game Jan. 22. Sisters Leah and Chloe Bishop played side by side on the Nighthawk Unified Basketball team. “There are challenges, but they’re always giving 110%, trying to impress everyone else in the building. They just want to be included like everybody else,” Unified Basketball coach Jerome Price said.