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Going to State Tournament!
A season of hard work and preparation came to fruition for the Panthers Special Olympics basketball team at Hoop Magic on Saturday, February 12th. At the Super Regional Basketball Tournament sponsored by ExxonMobil, the third tournament of the season, the Panthers took the court first against the Oakton Burgundy team. The Panthers fell behind early in the first quarter but fought back to tie the game at 14-14 by half-time. The second half belonged to the Panthers. Led by the tireless defensive pressure from Sonie and Rebecca McKenna, the Panthers held their opponents to just one basket in the second half, while racking up six baskets of our own, to finish the game 36-16. As has been the trademark all season, scoring for the Panthers was distributed among nearly all the players. Both McKenna sisters, Joe Gittinger, Natalie Mills ('10), Tasha Adkins-Blanch, and Sean Cross scored. Morgan Howard made several pretty outside set shots that almost went in and she provided great defensive pressure on fast breaks.
With the first round victory, the Panthers advanced to their division's championship game for the tournament where they faced one of their greatest rivals, the Twisters. Having fallen to the Twisters early in the season (and in seasons past), the Panthers knew it would take an extra effort to win this game. And they delivered! Down by two points at the half, the Panthers stuck to their strong defensive approach and were able to neutralize the Twisters' fast breaks and inside game by applying man-to-man pressure up front (again, thanks to the hard work of Sonie and Rebecca McKenna) and a zone defense in back that led to great intercepted passes by Joe Gittinger and Sean Cross. One of the fastest-paced games played by the Panthers this season found the Panthers and the Twisters trading two-point leads with numerous fast breaks down to the last two minutes of the game, at which point, the Panthers, led by outstanding team work and unselfish passing among all the players, was able to shut down the Twisters offense and pull ahead 26-20. In the end, the 30-20 win over the Twisters did not reflect how close a contest it really was, but it did show how hard the Panthers had worked to win the game. With their division win, the Panthers advance, for the first time in recent memory, to the Special Olympics State Basketball games in Fredericksburg, March 18-19.
Congratulations to all the Panthers Special Olympics basketball team and to Coach Underhill for this great accomplishment!