Kofa and San Luis compete in the two program’s first ever AIA Unified basketball game
Both schools opened their season for kids with special needs to compete on the court
YUMA, Ariz., (KYMA, KECY) - Tuesday afternoon turned out to be a very incredible and exciting day for a special group of local teenage athletes.
In a historic moment, both Kofa and San Luis tipped off for their schools' first ever Unified Basketball game inside Rillos Gym at Kofa High School - a day to bring exposure to, and shine the light on some special needs athletes.
Unified Basketball is an AIA-sanctioned sport supported by and in conjunction with Special Olympics Arizona (SOAZ), which has been established to foster inclusion, camaraderie, and the development of meaningful relationships between students with intellectual disabilities (Unified Athletes) and students without intellectual disabilities (Unified partners).
Each team that competes consists of a group of student-athletes with intellectual disabilities, along with student-athletes without intellectual disabilities - known as the "Unified Partners." A good way to bring them together and compete as one.
There will always be a Unified Partner on the floor as teams must adhere to a 3:2 ratio of Unified Athletes to Unified Partners on the court at all times.
The games consist of four, six-minute quarters with a running clock.
At the end of the 24 minutes on Tuesday, Kofa celebrated the win - winning 24-6 in their first ever Unified game. Cesar Alvarez led the Kings with 16 of the team's points, but he gave credit to their teamwork.
"It was fun. As a team we can do it," said Alvarez with several other teammates beside him. "Sometimes we can't make it (the basket) but we keep on trying, working as a team."
Although there is a final score being kept, at the end of the day everyone is a winner. Head coach Glen Rach, who also teaches math at Kofa High, believes every time they get to take the floor is special and is all the reason why he wants to be a part of it.
"It gives them an opportunity to go out and compete in a regulated environment and have fun," said Rach. "The smile on their faces, the excitement when a couple of these athletes scored points, the excitement on their face is why I'm doing this."
It was also a meaningful day for Kofa player Hector Hernandez, who finally got to show what he's been working on.
"I've been practicing with my uncle at the park in PhoenixWe've b een doing a lot of practice," said Hector. "Me, I did the Kobe. Yeah, I like it. I play video games like NBA 2K but I'm into playing basketball now."
Hector, just like the rest of his teammates having the time of their life and turning their dreams of playing a sport into a reality.
The Kofa team gets back on the floor on Wednesday at Yuma and again at Gila Ridge next week. Both teams will compete at the Unified Basketball Tournament in San Luis on January 21st.