Basketball games began early Saturday morning for athletes participating in the Special Olympics this weekend.
In Cunningham Hall on the campus of Fort Hays State University, The Arc of Central Plains Green Team began warming up shortly before 8:45 a.m.
“We’re going to win,” player Matthew Green said. “I’ve studied their height, and we have some bigger guys.”
Coach Carol Solko-Olliff has been volunteering with Special Olympics for approximately 30 years. She began volunteering when she was in school at Colby, and after moving here she got involved with the local organization. Her husband, Kenton Olliff, coaches with her.
“When we started dating that was just part of the deal,” Carol Solko-Olliff said with a laugh. “So he’s been coaching about 12 years now.”
The green team won both of their games Friday, so stakes were high as they played for first place Saturday morning.
Jessica Boeckner scored the first points in the game for the Green Team, followed by another bucket from teammate Jennifer Smith the next time down the court.
At the end of the first quarter, coach Solko-Olliff reminded her team in the huddle to move the ball around on offense.
“And remember to get your hands up,” she said about their defense.
“Buffaloes!” they shouted as they broke the huddle.
Melisa Mitchel had a basket in the second quarter as well as Michael Boese.
At half time, the Green Team was up 8 to 2 over Wichita Independents No. 7.
In the second half, the green team really took off.
Dallas Rupp had 6 points, along with another bucket by Melisa Mitchel and four points by Geoff Birzer.
The Green Team won their last game 22 to 8.
Following the game, they attended the medals ceremony where they received their first-place medals and had their team photo taken.
Dallas Rupp said basketball is his favorite sport and he practices a lot outside to get better at shooting.
“I like it,” Dallas said while holding up his medal. “I like first!”
Kenton Olliff said his experiences with the Special Olympics through the years have been great.
“I always tell people that these athletes get it,” Olliff said. “They are always excited; they help each other, and they help the other team. It’s extremely rewarding.”