The scoreboard read at the end of the game: Novi 27, Northville 24.
But everyone emerged victorious in the inaugural basketball game between the two rival schools of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association’s new Unified Sports League, made up of students with and without disabilities.
The mixed game, which took place last Friday in Northville, featured general and special education students and was well received by a large, boisterous and enthusiastic crowd of comrades, teachers and parents from both schools .
âIt is a once in a lifetime experience,â said Sarah Hige of Northville. âSince this is my last year, it’s so cool that we can do that like last year to go out. I can’t expect to do anything different in my senior year. It’s awesome here. . “
Students who attended Friday’s game received free entry to three games, including the girls and boys Northville college basketball games that followed.
The first 300 fans received “Spread the Word to End the Word” t-shirts as part of the movement to raise awareness of the harmfulness of the R-word and support for Special Olympics.
“We are the first league in the country, I think, to form a championship,” said Northville athletic director Bryan Masi. “We really tried to promote it in both schools and we had a huge crowd.”
The rules require that two general education students be in the field at the same time as three special education students.
âI just told them to have fun,â said Hige, who plays softball for the Mustangs. “Sometimes you have to tell them which direction to go because they forget, but other than that, have fun and play for the fans.”
Hige is part of a peer bonding class in high school, where she mentors a special education student.
âFor me, we go through their English class with them and we basically take the class with them, help them,â she said. “We are a mentor to them.”
The Unified Champion Schools program is made up of three main components, including youth leadership and advocacy, inclusive sports, and whole school engagement.
âThe kids here were so excited because they didn’t have that type of athletic experience,â Hige said. “It was great that they got to see this and be part of the social crowd in Northville.”
Three of Northville’s principals, Tony Koski, Jim Gordon and Billy Schellenbarger, served as match umpires.
âIt’s really cool to see my kids in my classroom being able to build relationships around the building,â said Kelsey Mikiciuk, Northville Unified basketball coach and teacher. “Just seeing some of the other students who aren’t normally in my class making relationships playing togetherâ¦ it’s great.”
And since it was Northville against Novi, the game made a bit more sense.
âThey were excited,â Mikiciuk said. âIt was like real rivals at football or basketball games. It was cool. All I had to do was send an email and everyone wanted to help. It was cool. . The students took the initiative, but so many staff members did too … just awesome. “
Novi track and cross country runner Trey Mullins has been contacted about his participation in the KLAA Unified Sports League basketball team through his school administration.
âIt’s really cool to be here, especially with Northville, our hometown rival,â said Mullins. âI always had a friend with special needs growing up, I developed a relationship and, in fact, he’s on the basketball team (Hunter Goodman), so I really wanted to be with him and surrounding their friends too. It’s kinda special for them, because they don’t have this opportunity all the time or really never in their life … have that atmosphere that regular kids have all the time, really. And I think that’s great for the parents of these kids. “
The KLAA Project Unified Basketball League is made up of eight teams with a five-game schedule, which runs from January through March. Brighton, Belleville, Hartland, Northville, Novi and Plymouth are among the founding members.
âWe have practice once or twice, so it’s really fun to go there and play with these kids,â said Mullins.
In partnership with Michigan Special Olympics, Project Unified is just the latest special education initiative for Novi, Northville and the KLAA.
âIt has been a very good experience so far,â said Andrew Sairri, basketball coach and teacher for Novi Unified. “I know the schools in Novi have been pushing for all-inclusive activities and therefore for all of our students to come here and have fun and participate in sports is a good thing to do.”
Judging by the size of the crowd and the enthusiasm the students brought to the Northville Gymnasium, it was a resounding success.
âI am happy to see everyone come and support their teams,â said Sairri. âIt’s really a great thing to do and it’s fun. It creates a fun environment. I think they were overwhelmed at first, but as the season continues they will get used to it and it will become the norm. “
The Northville team consisted of Abe Khoury, AJ Kemp, Anthony Montemayor, Caden Williams, Cecelia Richard, Christian Aulepp, Dora Koski, Gabi Fisette, Jack Harrigan, Jane Colter, Jeffrey Li, Jonathan Tish, Kristian Andresen, Malcolm Wang , Ryan Doroudian, Shannon McKee, Wolfie Mueller, Yushan Zhang, Yasmine Affes and Hige.
Northville’s coaching staff consisted of Jill Anderson, Shaun Dicken, Julie Fisette and Teryn Chrzanowski. The scorers were Haileigh Czarnecki and Alec Woodman.
Members of the Novi team included Eli Carpenter, Elizabeth Paul, Fabian Israel, Jack Waechter, JaDavian Harris-Jenkins, Jana Anbuselvan, Jerame Trimble, Jessica Paul, Kyle Henkel, Matt Heslop, Matt Murphy, Mike Manning, Nikola Ljucovic, Nylah Smith, Ric Nicklaus, Robby Heil, Scott Wilson, Sydney Giamarese, Sydney Lisowski, Goodman and Mullins.
Meanwhile, the victory proved sweet for the visiting Wildcats.
âIt’s great to win at Northville, to go back to school and brag about it,â said Sairri, who was assisted on the bench by Deb Thomas.
Contact Brad Emons at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ BradEmons1.