PITSBURG – The spotlight was on the Darke County Dawgs Friday night as they took on the Miami County Magic in a Special Olympics basketball game at Franklin Monroe.
This was the second consecutive year that Franklin Monroe hosted a Special Olympics basketball game. Last year Darke County’s youth Special Olympics basketball team competed in the Hangar while this year an adult team took the floor.
Friday’s contest preceded the varsity and junior varsity boys basketball games between Arcanum and Franklin Monroe with hundreds of fans showing up early to cheer on the Dawgs and Magic.
“I thought it went pretty well,” said Franklin Monroe Superintendent Jeff Patrick, who developed the plan for the game at Franklin Monroe. “I think everybody enjoyed it. The kids enjoyed it. The communities enjoyed it. The student body enjoyed it for both schools.”
Franklin Monroe and Arcanum combined to bright a big game atmosphere to Friday’s competition. The night began with both school’s student sections forming tunnels for the Special Olympics players to run through during pregame introductions.
“That was cool,” Darke County Special Olympics Director Cindy Rose said.
The game was tight throughout the night with multiple lead changes.
Darke County led 4-0 early in the game before Miami County went on a 5-0 run to take its first lead of the night. The Dawgs then scored the final 4 points of the opening quarter to lead 8-5.
The Magic started the second quarter on a 7-0 run to regain the lead at 12-8 before the Dawgs finished the half on an 11-2 run to lead 19-14 at halftime.
Miami County outscored Darke County 8-5 in the third quarter to reduce its deficit to 24-22.
The Magic tied the game at 26-26 on a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter, but the Dawgs finished the night on an 11-2 run to pull out the 37-28 victory.
Randy Hines led Darke County with 14 points in Friday’s victory. Also for the Dawgs, Matt Forsythe scored 11 points, Devin Billenstein scored 4, Nick Meade scored 3, Andrew Vititoe scored 3, and Tommy Dickey scored 2.
Tommy Carter led Miami County with a game-high 17 points. Also for the Magic, Luke Hahn scored 7 points, and Richard Bothel scored 2.
“I think it went great,” Rose said of Friday’s game. “Coming out with our friends from Miami County, second year FM has hosted, they put all the time and work into it to make it a bigger event.”
Darke County Special Olympics has one youth basketball team and two teams of adults. They normally play games on Wednesdays in Versailles.
Most people have never seen a Special Olympics game so Friday was a great opportunity to build awareness in the community, Rose said.
“Community involvement is what it’s about,” she said.
Patrick has been involved in Special Olympics for more than a decade, helping at the annual Darke County Special Olympics track and field meet each spring.
“I’ve always liked what Cindy does,” Patrick said. “She works really hard with the Special Olympics. I’ve gone up there as a superintendent now for 11 years and helped with the track and field event so I just wanted to basically give something back.
“She’s an incredible lady and gives a lot Darke County Special Olympics so I have a lot of appreciation for what she does.”
Darke County Special Olympics has athletes compete in numerous sports throughout the year including basketball, bowling, powerlifting, softball, swimming, track and field, and unified golf. The basketball season will continue into March when the regional and state tournaments are contested.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.