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State Champions

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Grant County Jaguars take gold at state tournament

By Ryan Naus

The Grant County Jaguars headed to Louisville to play in the state tournament and came away with gold.

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The Jaguars, Grant County’s Special Olympics basketball team, defeated two teams in the state tournament to earn the gold medal on March 14 and 15.

“I’m really proud of them,” coach Mike Bass said. “To be a team from Grant County and to go and take the gold at state, I can’t be prouder of them.”

The Jaguars started the state tournament with a win in double overtime over the Southeast Fire, 27-21 on March 14.

“It was a gut-wrenching game,” Bass said.

The Jaguars took an early 12-2 lead after the first quarter, but the Fire started to play aggressively, eventually forcing overtime. The teams each scored two points in the first overtime period, before the Jaguars took control in the second overtime.

“It was a tough game against good competitors,” Bass said. “I thought we would get sent home a couple of times, but the team pulled it out.”

In the championship game, the Jaguars played the Pitt Cubs, a team that they had beaten once early in the regular season. The Jaguars defeated the Cubs 30-12, earning the gold medal.

“We knew we would have a fight on our hands, but we came out on top. This team played their hearts out and they are a great bunch,” Bass said.

The team, which consists of eight players, was excited to take the gold medal, but Bass was excited to see them develop as players and on a personal level.

“They were real excited,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to be a coach. It helps them improve throughout life. It teaches them respect and discipline. You’d be amazed how the players change for the better. From day one, there has been a big improvement. They’ve progressed and learned the game. In the process of having fun and learning, we came home with the gold.”

“Now everyone knows who I am and all the good I did,” Kevin Nunn said, showing off his gold medal at Grant County High School. “We did our best.”

“It was great,” Tim Penn said. “It felt really good. I really wanted to win. I got to meet a lot of people and get to know them well. The closer we got, the more we became teammates.”

The players on the team are Benjamin Spiegel, Amanda Bass, Penn, Nunn, Jeremy Hearn, Max Vallarares, Mark Sprague and Michael Pitzer. The head coach is Mike Bass and the assistant coaches are Pam Clayton and Bill Dinnison.