For the second consecutive year the Bonney Lake and Sumner Special Olympics basketball team celebrated taking state, bringing up their total state championships to four.
The Spartans went undefeated throughout the eight subdistrict, district and championship games, and lost only one nonleague Pack the Gym game to Franklin Pierce.
“It was a good weekend. These kids feel really special,” said 15-season coach Keith Ross. “That’s the part I love about this the most – these kids feel like they just won the NBA championship.”
The team consists of students from both high schools and students from the Sumner School District Transition Program, which transitions special education students between the ages of 19 and 21 out of high school.
The Spartans that went to state this year were Dalton Anderson, Naveed Hazig, Chris Crandall, Conner Cope and Skyler Howe from Bonney Lake and Dustin Walston, Emily Hurst and Robert Kinderknecht from Sumner.
The team’s transition athletes were John Anthony, Evan Cofer, Sara Dewey and Ian Hines.
Hines and Anthony will be graduating out of the program. They’ve been on the team for seven years and saw all four of the team’s state wins.
Ross said the toughest game throughout the competition was the semifinal game March 6 against Marysville, when Crandall made two free throws with six seconds left on the clock, tying up the game.
Crandall then scored two more points in overtime, winning the game for his team and sending them to the finals.
“He’s our superstar,” said Ross. “He’s like our Michael Jordon.”
The final game was against Clark County and the Spartan athletes came out ahead 35-19.
Not only did the team get a back-to-back state title, but two players received silver and gold in the individual skills competitions.
“They’re lower skilled than they need to be to be on the team, so they work on skills,” Ross said.
The skills these athletes work on are dribbling, passing and shooting. Hurst came away with the gold and Kinderknecht got the silver.
Walston also made national news when he made a buzzer beater against Rodgers High School Feb. 9, bringing his team to 34-32. The shot was covered by TMZ and was then included in ESPN’s Top 10.