D128’s Special Olympics basketball team wins state championship


Charlotte Pulte

Team Storm poses with some of their coaches and LHS staff. They hold a banner that their classmates and friends at the Wildcat Warehouse made them in support of the team’s victory at state.

Last weekend, Team Storm, D128’s Unified Special Olympics team, brought home a basketball state championship title with their spirit and love of the game.

LHS held a celebratory state march for the champions Friday morning to congratulate and honor the players and coaches. The LHS students on the team are Albina Giza, Joseph Maller and Anna Scholler, as well as alumni Mason Reyes and Alexa Donato. After the march, Illinois Representative Mary Edly-Allen presented the players with honorary certificates on behalf of the state of Illinois.

Charlotte Pulte
Illinois House of Representatives member Mary Edly-Allen presented the students on Team Storm with honorary award certificates on behalf of the State of Illinois. Edly-Allen personally congratulated each team member during the ceremony.

The team travelled down to Peoria on Friday, March 15, for the championship tournament, where they played Special Olympics teams from Stevenson and Edwardsville on Saturday, March 16.

“The competition at state was really hard! The [referees] were strict and the other teams were really good. They had a lot of skill, but we were good too,” said Scholler, a senior who also participated as the LHS boys basketball team manager in the winter.

One of the team’s coaches is Vernon Hills High School P.E. teacher Mr. Andy Compton, who stated that his team “saved their best two games for last” at the state competition.

Team Storm competes in the Unified Special Olympics division, which brings people with and without intellectual disabilities together to play team sports. Teams are required to play with three special education students and two regular education students on the court at a time.

Charlotte Pulte
Sophomore Albina Giza shows off the award plaque given to the team after winning the state championship. This is the first time D128’s team has won the championship for basketball.

“My teammates are good friends of mine, and I’ve made new friends through the team, so that’s really cool. If I wasn’t on the team, I would have never met them, and now they’re some of my best friends,” explained Scholler.

After their victory, Team Storm was bused to Vernon Hills High School for a pep rally. The bus was accompanied by a police escort from the highway to Vernon Hills. Coach Compton commented on how the program “brings the students and school community closer together.”

The team is made up of 15 players, some from LHS, some from VHHS and some graduates. They have all been practicing together since November, but the team has players of all experience levels.

“My favorite part about my team is that they’re so active, and it makes practices fun. They’re all really fast and it really helps during games,” said Scholler.

According to Coach Compton, going to state “allowed the team to get to know each other better and experience something they had never done before together.”

Charlotte Pulte
Senior Joseph Maller shows his Wildcat pride by waving an orange pompom in the air during his walk down the hallway in the state march on Friday morning. Maller is one of the players on D128’s Unified Special Olympics basketball team.

He explained that coaching this team “is one of the most fulfilling jobs anyone could have. You get way more out of it then you put in.” He also added that “you see the world from a much different perspective.”

“My coaches are really funny and really helpful, especially during practice,” said Scholler. She explained that the team “always [has] a good time,” whether at practices or at games.