The Special Olympics Options basketball team from Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax participated in the March 18 and 19 Special Olympics State Games in Stafford. The Panthers were placed in division 5, the highest-skilled division the team had played in all season.
In their opener, the Panthers faced the Bobcats from Area 14, who they defeated 26-21. The Panthers were led by top scorers Sonie McKenna (eight points) and Brandi Lovett (six). Joe Gittinger, Sean Cross and Rebecca McKenna also threw in a pair of buckets each to round out the Panthers’ scoring. Tough defense and good passing was provided by everyone, including Tasha Adkins-Blanch, Morgan Howard, Natalie Mills and Evan Patchett. The victory advanced PVI to the championship game against the Spotsylvania Lakers.
The Panthers opened the game strong, staying with the Lakers for the first quarter, primarily due to the outstanding defensive play of Sonie and Rebecca McKenna. The Panthers fought hard throughout the game, but eventually lost 31-20 to a much taller, faster and more physical team. Gittinger led the scoring for the Panthers with six points, while Cross landed two beautiful outside jumpers for four points. Sonie McKenna also came away with four points and Mills and Rebecca McKenna threw in a bucket each. One highlight in the final minute of the game was a reach around bounce pass from Adkins-Blanch, who was double-teamed under the bucket. The pass found an open Howard who sank a perfect 10-foot bank shot. Tough defensive play was provided by Lovett, and Patchett displayed outstanding back court ball handling.
The silver medal the team received at the State games capped a stellar Special Olympics basketball season for the Options Panthers team, one which included thrilling victories, hard fought defeats, and lots of memorable moments of teamwork and camaraderie.