WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Down 14 points at half-time, the Wahconah Unified Basketball team was not about to back down, not if Tony Marra had anything to say about it.
“Last year, if we were behind like that, I probably would have been really upset,” Marra said. “But over the summer, I won states with the Unified Track team, and I realized that it’s more about the team than the actual score.”
Marra scored six of the first eight points of the second half as Wahconah rallied to within two points of the Mounties before Mount Greylock pulled away for a 50-42 win.
Aidan Barnes scored 18 points, and Aaron McKeon added 14 for the Mounties.
Marra and Jessica Jones each scored 10 for Wahconah, which got six points from Helen Jamrog.
The Mounties jumped on top early with an 8-0 run that featured a couple of buckets by Barnes. First, he drove the left wing to snap a 6-0 Wahconah run and make it a 6-4 game. Moments later, he pulled down a defensive rebound and went the other way for a transition bucket to give Mount Greylock an 8-6 advantage.
The Mounties never relinquished the lead from there.
They pulled away with a 10-0 run that started with a basket in the post by Timothy Beliveau (six points) and ended with a Barnes bucket.
Jamrog scored to stop the bleeding for Wahconah, but Barnes scored a basket off a feed from Cole Narey to start a 6-0 spurt for the Mounties.
Barnes scored 16 of his 18 in the first half, but he really got the crowd going with some between the legs dribbling in the open court in the second half.
“My brother taught me that,” the Mount Greylock sophomore said afterward.
The Mounties le by as many as 16 before Dillon Marra scored at the end of the first half to make it 32-18.
Tony Marra then started the second half by converting an offensive rebound and then getting a steal and lay-in to spark an 8-0 Wahconah run that trimmed the lead to six.
Jones’ putback with 18:03 to play trimmed Mount Greylock’s lead to 34-32, prompting Mounties coach Liza Barrett to call timeout.
Barrett, an English teacher at Mount Greylock, is in her first year with the school’s second-year Unified team. Unified Sports, an initiative of Special Olympics, allows students in special education programs to compete with their general education counterparts in varsity competition.
“This has been an absolutely incredible experience,” Barrett said. “I’ve coached a lot of basketball in my life and played a lot of basketball. This might be some of the most fun I’ve ever had with the game of basketball.
“The spirit and camaraderie in the gym between our teammates, the other team, the other coaches and the fans, it’s truly incredible to feel the energy and the positivity. This is what you wish all sports could feel like, where, yes, you want to win and you’re trying to win. But everybody is there for everybody else. Right down to the referees, everybody is supporting each other.”
Jamieson Sanborn set up Henry Art for a bucket out of the timeout to start a 10-0 run for Mount Greylock, and the Mounties never looked back.
The teams will meet up again at least three more times this fall, starting with next Thursday’s game in Dalton.
Expect the rest of the games to have the same positivity that Barrett felt on Thursday in the Mountie Dome.
“As weird as it sounds, the Unified Track [experience] does help this,” Tony Marra said. “At first, when the Unified program started at Wahconah, I really didn’t consider going to it.
“But now that I’ve been in, it’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve had. And, of course, being with my brother and in track last year with my sister and winning states, it just felt so amazing.”