LANCASTER — Antelope Valley High School hosted the inaugural Overcoming Obstacles Unified Basketball Tournament on Saturday, where special needs and general eduction students from eight Antelope Valley high schools competed in the co-ed event to be named the best unified team in the District.
The basketball tournament is the fall complement to the annual Overcoming Obstacles track meet, held each spring for special needs students.
“I’ve been wanting to do it. I’ve been wanting to have something in the fall, have something in the spring, to give an opportunity to the kids,” AV High Vice Principal John Najar said.
For the unified basketball tournament, general education students played alongside special needs students. Each team had approximately six general education students, with three girls and three boys, and 10 special needs students. Each team had one boy and one girl general education student, with three special needs students who rotated in and out of the lineup.
“We’re keeping the games short, 12-minute halves, running clock. I don’t want to overwork any of the kids,” Najar said.
The championship team won a perpetual Overcoming Obstacles basketball trophy that will go to next year’s winner. There was also a trophy and third place.
The student athletes represented each of AV Union High School District’s eight comprehensive high schools: Antelope Valley, Eastside, Highland, Knight, Lancaster, Littlerock, Palmdale and Quartz Hill.
The brackets featured AV High against Eastside High and Lancaster High against Littlerock High in the morning games. The winning teams from those games played each other in the second round, while the losing teams also played each other.
The other bracket featured Palmdale High against Knight High, and Quartz Hill High against Highland High. The winning teams from those games played each other. The losing teams also played each other.
The winning teams from each of the second rounds played for the championship, while the losing teams played for third place.
AV High senior Mison Coleman, a member of AV High’s boys basketball boys team, volunteered to the tournament.
“I’m a caring person and I felt like it’s more for them, and I felt like helping them is the cool thing to do,” Coleman said
Senior Aaliyah Jackson, who plays for the ’Lopes girls basketball team, agreed.
“Today is all about them. We’re just making sure that they have fun.” Jackson said.
Littlerock High School junior Adrianna Morales said she was excited to play in the tournament.
“Yes,” Morales said, when asked if she likes basketball.
“A lot of our kids aren’t able to get cleared for gen ed sports, so Overcoming Obstacles, the last three years that they’ve done the track meet, has been great for our students,” Littlerock High School coach Tony Parady said, adding the special needs students love to participate.
Littlerock High freshman Toby Keith was also excited about playing basketball.
Littlerock High special education teacher Kayla Miller said her students practiced for the tournament for the past two months.
“They’re all really excited about it, and the other kids working with my students are excited about it too,” Miller said.