FanFest 2019: Game Coverage

Special Olympics basketball game returns for its fifth year


Junior Maggie Campion encourages Shue and the rest of the team during halftime. (photo by Maren Kranking)

by Talia Blakemore, Brendan Camp, Zach Anderson and Ella Sangree

On March 23, the McLean Special Olympics basketball team competed against the Lake Braddock White Panthers. With packed bleachers and the cheerleaders, dance team and representatives from D.C. United in attendance, everyone was excited for the game.

Dr. Ellen Reilly made an appearance at the game; coach Mark Thompson said she is always looking for ways to help out the Special Olympics team. She began the game with a short speech, telling her students she missed them and how much she loved the annual event.

As the overhead lights shut off, the wrestling spotlight created an atmosphere similar to that of a championship game. The voice of Rusty Payne announced each player as they ran through a tunnel created by the cheerleaders.

“When they get announced, they run out with these huge smiles,” Thompson said. “You can’t make it up.”

FanFest marks the end of the Special Olympics basketball season, but this is the first time the team got the chance to play on their home court. Center #44 Ben Baker was a force on defense, putting up a strong block on a few of the opposing players. Additionally, players such as seniors Juan Ramirez-Ramirez and Ben Shue pushed through the defense put up by the Lake Braddock White Panthers to score many times, keeping the Highlanders in the game.

At halftime, the dance team—accompanied by Kendall Lyons, Mahnoor Haq and Polina Leonovav—performed a short dance to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” Director of Student Activities Greg Miller also led his classic half court shoot-off, with participants from both teams as well as the audience.

Crowd favorites #12 and #14 from the White Panthers interacted with the crowd, getting them excited to keep watching.

“It’s my favorite event because the crowd cheers for both teams,” school psychologist Beth Werfel said. “It’s a community event.”

As the clock wound down on the 2019 FanFest game, sophomore Abby Criswell made impressive rebounds to make a critical basket. Then, with three seconds left in the game, Maia Williams dribbled the ball up the court. After the ball released from her hand, the buzzer rang. Onlookers watched as the ball flew towards the basket, swishing through the net.

“It’s going to be bittersweet this year because a lot of our team is leaving—they’re going to the Davis Center, so this will be the last time they’re all going to get to play together,” Payne said.

With the end of a great season, the team and crowd emptied out that night with smiles on each and every face.