Unified basketball

Mount View caps historic first season with 100-point game

By Mark Haskell | Mar 08, 2017

Thorndike — Mount View High School recently wrapped its inaugural regular season of unified basketball and the eight-game campaign could not have gone much better for the Mustangs.

Unified basketball — which combines Special Olympics athletes and general student-athletes (partners) in 5-on-5 competition — has taken the state by storm the past few years.

In 2015 when the Maine Principals’ Association officially sanctioned the sport, it had just 18 teams statewide. Since then, those numbers have swelled to 46.

And in Mount View’s regular-season finale on Monday, March 6 at home against Nokomis of Newport, the squads played a game for the ages.

The Mustangs and Warriors were tied at 100-100 at the end of regulation, thanks, in part, to a three-pointer by Nick Elkins near the end of the fourth quarter to tie the score.

Elkins added another trey to start four-minute overtime period, but the Mustangs eventually dropped a 107-105 decision on senior night.

The two most crucial components that make the game different from traditional basketball is there can be no more than two partners on the court at any given time with the Special Olympics athletes, and the partners can account for no more than 25 percent of the team's total points.

Mount View co-coach Ron Simmons said Elkins, who the Mustangs refer to as “Quick Nick,” had “about 40 points” against the Warriors. He averaged “about 28 points a game” this season for the Mustangs.

Elkins is a tri-captain on the team, along with Mike “The Spike” Lamkin and Destiny “Firebolt” Winslow.

In addition to Elkins, Lamkin and Winslow, team members also include Justice Savoy, Brendan Savoy, Jessie Blanchette, McKenna Gibbs, Reanna Boulay, Kristen Allen, Alexis Bowman, Morgan Taylor, Shaynen Schofield, Nathaniel Illingworth and Austin Grotton.

Simmons, who is in his 21st year teaching physical education at Mount View and has also coached the school’s varsity football team, co-coached the team this year along with math teacher Mark Cooper.

“If it wasn’t for Mark I probably wouldn’t have done it,” Simmons said. “Coming out of retirement of coaching was kind of a cool thing. I’ve done a lot of different sports like basketball, track and football, but I’ve never done anything like this.”

Simmons added that where he teaches adapted PE, “I was kind of the perfect guy to do it.”

“I knew all the kids and they all knew me and all felt comfortable with me so I said to myself, ‘You know, this was the right thing to do.’ ”

“It’s been extraordinary,” said Blanchette, one of the team’s helpers who also is a standout field hockey player for the school. “It’s really fun. It’s definitely cool being able to work with players that need more help and giving them the opportunity to have the spotlight and to just be able to play as a team.”

“If it wasn’t for the helpers, this just wouldn’t happen,” said Simmons. “Their influence on the kids and them being so passionate and loving with those kids has made all the difference.”

Simmons said the season highlight was the team's 73-70 road victory over Skowhegan on Friday, March 3.

Though Monday’s loss to the Warriors, eclipsing 100 points and honoring the team’s seniors, was “special as well.”

“The boys and girls on the team wrote little notes about their helpers,” he said. “They all chose a helper to write about and they actually read what they said to their helper in front of the crowd over the loudspeaker. There were some tears of joy out there.”

“I’m close with the twins [Justice Savoy and Brendan Savoy] and working with them has honestly been life-changing,” said Blanchette. “It’s inspired me a lot to help others. When you’re out on the court, it doesn’t feel like you’re a mixed group. It just feels like they’re as casual as you are. You get to see them have fun and accomplish something that they wouldn’t normally get the chance to and that’s pretty heartwarming.”

Simmons added that in the school’s first unified game — a 62-34 loss at Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston — the Mustangs learned a lot about how to host an event, including dancing at halftime with cheerleaders and fans.

“They did a great job,” said Simmons. “Boogeying at the half with the cheerleaders just dancing and stuff [was great]. That’s what we do up here now. They taught us well.”

The Mustangs finished the regular season 3-5 and currently are in a holding pattern waiting to see who they will host in a playoff game, with several other teams still in the process of completing their respective campaigns.

And win or lose that upcoming postseason game, Simmons said he is just excited his team will get the chance to play one more game at home.

“They’re so excited about it,” he said. “They’re excited to all be together at least one more time.”

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.

Staff Profile

Mark Haskell
Associate Sports Director
594-4401, ext. 116
Email Me

Mark has been covering local sports throughout Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln county since 2007. Haskell has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from the University of Maine and is also a 2000 graduate of Rockland District High School. He has won multiple Maine Press Association awards for writing and photography.

Mark loves the Boston Red Sox, iced coffee, cargo shorts and time with friends and family.

He resides in Thomaston with his wife Jenn, his sons Beckett and Austin and daughter Lila.

Recent Stories by Mark Haskell