An Allied Medal

Allied Basketball team caps outstanding season to earn third place at IHSA Unified Basketball State Championships

Coaches Degen and Hutchins rally the 2018-19 Allied Basketball team in a match earlier this season. The squad certainly demonstrated camaraderie and unity along their journey to third in State.

Bradley Locker, Sports Editor

On St. Patrick’s Day Weekend, most people were attending festivities, participating in verdant parades and anxiously preparing March Madness brackets.

However, for the Allied Basketball team, the weekend of March 17th was incredibly special: the team, in its inaugural season, reached the IHSA Unified Basketball State Championships in Peoria, IL.

The squad, which consisted of Mark Brady ’19, Daniel Kahn ’19, Jeremy Millman ’19, David Ha ’19, Timothy Phelps ’19, Stephen Wetle ’19, Tyler Yoo ’19, Nicholas Brickman ’20, Ethan Brandwein ’21, Sean Pokoski ’21, Alex Eisen ’21, Andrew Maher ’21, Shephia Zhou ’21 and Asher Barshefsky ’22 made the four-hour trek to the Peoria Civic Center on Friday.

Coaches Ryan Hutchins and Emma Degen—who also work along one another as girls golf instructors—guided the team in their game against Vernon Hills—which ended in a loss—as well as the third-place matchup against Lasalle-Peru where they emerged victorious.

“I think it was one of the highlights of their high school experiences,” Hutchins said. “Going down there and seeing all the other IHSA teams, the traditions of it and staying there for the weekend was an incredible experience that will probably be one of the best in their high school careers.”

Ceremonies, which included medals and plaques, helped to commemorate the teams before and after the actual games as well as how well the units had coalesced during the season. During their stay in the largest town along the Illinois River, the players also went out for pizza, enjoyed bowling and made unforgettable memories.

“What makes Allied Sports so special is, first of all, most of these kids with disabilities don’t get experiences like this,” Barshefsky said, who also touched upon the permanent bonds between teammates. “They have never really had the opportunity to play a sport in a big tournament competing against others.”

Pertaining to the team’s success, Hutchins pointed to possessing athletic players who have a basketball background; Barshefsky explained that Allied Basketball differentiates itself due to having “helpers” rather than “partners.”

For students who have mental disabilities, Allied Basketball—and Allied Sports in general—has served as a platform for serenity and comfort.

“It’s become part of my life now,” Wetle said. “I’m able to win for our school and represent [Stevenson] in the soccer field and on the basketball court.”

Though several members may be graduating next year, Hutchins hopes to praise them about how much they aided the 2018-19 team as well as how their legacies will be recalled for years to come.

“It was great to see how those kids interacted with each other, their discipline and even their willingness to work together and have fun,” Hutchins said. “They were part of the beginning years of what hopes to be something that’s long-lasting.”