The final four may be this weekend, but the University of South Carolina won’t be the only team looking for a title.
For the Bluffton Lightning Sharks, winning isnt about a score, its just getting a chance to play.
The court is full of athletes, basketball players. The Bluffton Lightning Sharks.
“A lightning shark is fast and aggressive,” explains Julian Lemon, Lightning Sharks Player.
“Is that what you are?”
“is that what your team is?”
Julian is just one of a dozen Special Olympians preparing for the state title tournament this weekend.
“What does it feel like when you make a basket?”
“It feels great,” said Matthew Rocca, Lightning Sharks Player
“Shocking actually because you don’t know where the ball is going until you shoot it,” said Andrew Storey, Lightning Shark Player.
You have to shoot to score, but this team does it all, rebounds, plays defense and most of all, has fun.
“I love basketball because its fun,” said Rocca.
“What’s your favorite part?”
“My favorite part is being together with friends,” explained Lightning Shark Bailey.
“Having fun and being with everybody,” smiled Andrew.
“The athletes are why we do this,” explained Leah Market, Lightning Sharks Coach. “They have so much fun learning new things and when they make a basket you see the light in their eyes.”
But don’t mistake the smiles, they are serious athletes with big plans.
“Are you ready for the NBA after this?”
“Yes,” smiled Matthew.
“You ready for the NBA or the final four?”
“Yes sir but my bracket is pretty much busted,” laughed Julian.
Bracket busted, but dreams that live on, dreams of a state title.
“It would mean a lot to everybody and to me too,” said Andrew Storey. “But mostly about my teammates because its a team game, not about just one player.”
For coaches and volunteers just getting a chance to be here is their dream fuffilled..
“My favorite part is every Monday I get to come here and forget about work and everything else and I get to focus on other people,” said Leah.
“I thought it would be a side hobby but now i look forward to 5pm every week because i know its probably going to be the most fun of the whole week,” said Alex Glenn, Volunteer and Coach.
This weekend the Lightning Sharks will take part in the State Special Olympics Basketball tournament. It’s held in Lexington and Irmo and features traditional and Unified competitions.
Special Olympics South Carolina provides year-round sports training and competitions for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. It has 25,588 athletes in South Carolina and are the 10th largest program in the United States.
Special Olympics host 400 competitions in our state annually and we offer 27 Olympic-style sports. We have 16 local area programs, the Lightning Sharks are in Area 8 which covers Beaufort, Colleton, Jasper and Hampton counties.