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Special Olympics Basketball

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Nearly 200 athletes competed at Glendale High School Saturday in the 8th Annual Special Olympics – Tillsonburg Basketball Tournament.

Tillsonburg entered three teams in the one-day tournament, which included entries from LaSalle, Cambridge and St. Thomas, and each came home with a ribbon or medal.

Tillsonburg’s Special Olympics basketball program trains weekly on Thursday nights from the end of September until April. This year several new players joined the program, including a couple from Ingersoll.

“The new players did really well their first time in a tournament,” said Tillsonburg coach Doug Cooper. “I was impressed with them, this is their first year playing basketball.

“We have a pretty good weekly turnout – probably about 15-16 on a regular basis.”

The local Wildcats Rec D team finished fourth in their division.

“We’ve got a few things to work on, but it’s a Rec team so you never know what to expect from them,” coach Doug Cooper smiled after the tournament concluded Saturday.

“Last weekend we did really well in a St. Thomas tournament. Today, different attitude and different way of playing.

“It all depends what kind of attitude they come to the game with and whether they’re well-rested. Some of them like to stay up at night, and you can tell when they come to play.”

Playing on the D Rec team were: Tim Soltis, Bradley Sinden, Aslynn Sinden, Amy Greve, Dan Benoit, Leigh Townsend, Sandy Stormont, Gavin Verbakel, and Michelle Oatman.

One of Tillsonburg’s D Rec tournament games went into overtime – almost unheard of in the history of the Tillsonburg Special Olympics tournament.

“That was their best game, the second game this morning,” said Cooper. “I think we lost by two in overtime. It was a good effort in that one.”

Tillsonburg Wildcats’ D team won bronze medals, defeating St. Thomas’ second team 17-11.

“The D team played very well,” he nodded.

The same team had lost to LaSalle last weekend, then beat St. Thomas, who also lost to LaSalle, and London. Neither of their last two games was close.

“We made sure, in that last game, everybody got a basket. So it was a good day all around.”

Playing on the D team were: Justin Skevington, Kara Jones, Tyler Allison, Charlotte VanLingen, Shannon Schooley, Don Skiba, Brianna Underwood, Alexa Stoop, and Christina Wardle.

Tillsonburg All-Stars, which included players from Tillsonburg’s other teams on a rotating basis, finished with silver medals in the D Division, edged out by St. Thomas in the gold-medal game.

“Three of the (all-star) players, they’ve been off to school all year, so this is their first basketball, other than maybe Reading Week for a practice. But they’ve played together so much over the years that they know each other, and you could see that in the passing.”

Playing only on the All-Star team were: Ann Marie D’Hondt, Corey Mulholland, Matt McNeil and Rebecca VanLingen.

Tillsonburg’s Special Olympics coaches this year were Doug Cooper, Diane Rugienis, and Jerry D’Hondt.

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