Unified Basketball rounds out winning season with 46-26 victory
The Wareham Unified Basketball team rounded out its first — and almost undefeated — season on Nov. 3 with a 46-26 win over Apponequet Regional High School.
The Vikings also celebrated the accomplishments of the team’s seniors.
Crowds packed the stands, cheering on the team and chanting along with the cheerleaders.
“It’s been a fun season,” said Head Coach Marissa Smith.
Throughout the season, Smith said the athletes have really improved their shooting and defensive skills, including rebounds and steals.
“Unified” teams refer to programs that form teams, which include athletes with intellectual (and sometimes physical) disabilities and partners. This year’s team includes six athletes and six partners.
“Obviously, we have a stand-out athlete in our Senior Captain Alton McCane,” Smith said. “Besides being one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met — I get all teary talking about him — he’s outstanding on the court, too.”
McCane is the team’s lead scorer — netting 30 points during Wednesday’s game.
He said the season had been good, but noted it’s hard to run and play while wearing a mask.
“We almost had a perfect season,” McCane said. “We lost our second game to Seekonk, 42-40.”
McCane said his season highlight was scoring 44 points during the team’s first home game — his record for the season.
“I had lots of fun,” said Antonio Colon, a junior and athlete on the team.
He said he expected the team to be successful, and plans to play next year, too.
Brayden Cannon, a partner on the team, said he loves playing on the unified team.
“The kids work really hard,” Cannon, an eighth grader, said. “Everybody passes. They all share the ball… They’re all team players.”
Cannon said that his favorite moments from the season were when McCane scored his 44th point in one game, Tyler MacIver’s spin moves and when Nicky Morin scored his first basket.
Jayden Powell-Gomes, another eighth grade partner, plays a special role on the team, Smith said.
“He creates opportunities for both teams,” Smith said.
Powell-Gomes said his favorite part of the season was seeing how excited his teammates got when they scored. He particularly likes Morin’s victory dance and MacIver’s spin moves.
Asked if he was thinking about playing on the team again next year, Powell-Gomes’ answer was immediate: “Most definitely.”
Smith said that the partners on the team are integral to the team’s success. She said the students are “really committed to the mission of creating opportunities for all of our athletes.”
Smith noted that the unified basketball program wouldn’t have gotten started without Megan Kashner, the Special Education teacher at Wareham High who launched the Unified Track team a few years ago.
“This would not have been here without her vision and passion for our students with intellectual disabilities,” Smith said.
Smith said her assistant coaches Jamie Pelletier and Marybeth Kiernan, who work with the athletes both in the classroom and on the court, helped make the season possible.