Tillsonburg wins 'D' championship in Sarnia

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Special Olympics Tillsonburg’s D basketball team accomplished its main goal Jan. 26 in Sarnia.

They had fun.

And the team did good, said Adam Todd, winning five games on the way to the D Division championship.

“Played hard… and good.”

Tillsonburg defeated Woodstock 16-6 in the final game at Sarnia St. Patrick’s High School. Other teams in the tournament were Sarnia, LaSalle, and London, but not the same London team they’ve seen at their own Tillsonburg tournament.

Some centres had relatively new ‘D’ teams, including host Sarnia, and the Tillsonburg players focused on sportsmanship.

“We let them shoot, to make it more even,” said AnneMarie D’Hondt. “And let them get their own rebounds.”

“They worked really well together,” said coach Doug Cooper, one of four coaches on the team (along with Mark Phipps, Robert Verhoeve, and Ashley Ward). “The thing that impressed us the most was the sportsmanship from the Sarnia tournament.”

Instead of running up the score, Cooper said they slowed it down, ran the clock, and gave the other team an opportunity to score, too.

“I was more proud of them for that than the fact that we went undefeated.”

“They played really good as a team,” said Phipps. “It actually made it really hard for us to coach them… trying to get them to gear down.”

“The final was close,” said Verhoeve, agreeing the team never forgot good sportsmanship thoughout the tournament.

“Nobody tried to do it on their own – there were many passes, smiles, and every player had the chance to score a basket. When it looked like we were running away with the game, our players even started passing the ball to the other team. Good sportsmanship was the theme of the day.

“I was very proud of our talented, hard-working basketball squad,” added Verhoeve. “Seeing everyone come together as a team is very rewarding to witness.”


Contributed photoSpecial Olympics Tillsonburg’s D basketball team won gold medals at the Sarnia Invitational on Jan. 26. From left are coaches Doug Cooper and Mark Phipps, players Nick O’Brien, Matt MacNeil, Zach Phipps, AnneMarie D’Hondt, William Ypma, Joe Phipps, Adam Todd, Corey Mulholland and coach Robert Verhoeve. TN


Experience made the difference in Sarnia. Tillsonburg’s newest player, Adam Todd, joined this season, but he had played basketball for six years, coached by his father, before moving from Port Hope, Ont.

“I moved here from Port Hope and I made new friends here,” said Todd, who also participates in Special Olympics bowling… and plans to join the slo-pitch team in the summer.

D’Hondt and teammates Matt MacNeil, Corey Mulholland and others, are on the other end of the experience spectrum with 16-17 years basketball in Tillsonburg. The rest of the team is somewhere in between.

“The group you have now has been together for four years now,” said coach Cooper.

And that experience helps – both as a team and individuals.

“Oh yes, yes it does,” said Todd, noting the team is good at passing the ball.

“Yes, over the years, yes it does,” MacNeil agreed.

When they played in Sarnia, said MacNeil, they acted like professionals – they did not showboat and they kept the celebrating ‘down low’.

“Wait for the next tournament and try it again,” added MacNeil.

Tillsonburg D has two more tournaments coming up this month – Feb. 9 in St. Thomas and Feb. 23 in Tillsonburg (Glendale High School) where they expect to see LaSalle, Sarnia and St. Thomas. Tillsonburg’s D Rec team will be also have a division in the home tourney.

The D team, which finished second in Tillsonburg last year, hopes to once again have fun at their own tournament.

“To go out and have fun,” said Cooper, stating the team’s goal.

“That’s what I was going to say – to have fun,” said D’Hondt.

“Have fun,” Todd nodded.

“It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose as long as you go out and have fun,” said Cooper.

“Exactly,” said D’Hondt.

And try to get everyone on the team one basket, or chance to get a basket, said Phipps.