The De La Salle-Southside Occupational Academy Unified Basketball team beat St. Patrick-Vaughn Occupational, 64-59, on March 9 for its second consecutive state title. Photo by Mike Walsh

The De La Salle-Southside Occupational Academy Unified Basketball team beat St. Patrick-Vaughn Occupational, 64-59, on March 9 for its second consecutive state title. Photo by Mike Walsh

Hoops team featuring De La Salle players wins 2nd straight Unified Basketball state title

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By Mike Walsh
Correspondent

For the second consecutive season, the team comprising students from De La Salle and Southside Occupational Academy are IHSA/Special Olympics of Illinois Division II Unified Basketball state champions.

The De La Salle-SOA unified team etched its name into the state annals via a 64-59 victory over St. Patrick-Vaughn Occupational on March 9 at State Farm Center in Champaign.

“This is a wonderful event, and I’m so very proud of the students from De La Salle and from Southside Occupational Academy who did an exemplary job of representing their respective schools,” said De La Salle athletic director and unified team coach Tom White. “Participating in this allows our student-athletes to develop friendships with the students from Southside Occupational Academy as well as giving students from both schools an amazing opportunity to learn from each other about the benefits of working hard and putting forth a substantial effort both individually and as a team to achieve their goals.

“This is something we’ll always cherish and remember.”

De La Salle-SOA defeated Bradley-Bourbonnais, 40-29, in the state semifinals on March 8.

Representing De La Salle were David Coffey, Chris Cole, Kaleb Navarro, Myles Green and Timothy Schergen. Southside Occupational team members were Rashawn Allen, Trevon Darden, Keynon Davis, Brandon Dorsey, Matthew Furdge, Marcus Holmes and Christmann Tassy.

Unified Basketball rules require that three Special Olympics athletes and two “unified partners” per team be on the court together at any one time. A team can have as many as 15 players on its roster.

“Participating in Unified Basketball gives the students access to a broader education and a new perspective on life,” said Dustin Deal, one of the team’s assistant coaches and a special education teacher at SOA, which is located in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood. “These kids are 18 to 22 years old and can graduate when they want to, but they still have things to learn and this gives them an incentive to want to come to school.

“By playing basketball with this team, the students feel like everyone else now. Sometimes, the students are down when they come to school, but being a part of the Unified team allows them to do everything that everyone else is doing. They hang out with their friends from De La Salle and the students from Southside are treated like people who are independent and successful. They are treated like athletes who are capable of learning all these schemes.”

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