Special Olympics basketball players wrap up season at state tournament

WESTFIELD — Whether they placed first or fifth, the Special Olympics Indiana Jackson County basketball players were proud of what they achieved in the final competition of the season.

The county program had one five-on-five team, three three-on-three teams and two skills competition participants in the Special Olympics Indiana basketball state tournament, which took place Saturday and Sunday at Pacers Athletic Center in Westfield.

The four teams were among 130 men’s and women’s squads competing over the weekend.

Jackson County’s sole gold medal winner was Becky Klosterman in the skills competition. That consists of athletes earning points while shooting, dribbling and passing.

In Division 6, Klosterman placed first with 94 points. When the results were announced and she realized she earned gold, Klosterman put her hands over her face and smiled.

“It was shocking. I didn’t think I got gold, and I was just so happy I got to go against other counties,” she said. “I had two other girls, and they tried their hardest, and they did good or themselves, and for myself, I did real good.”

This was Klosterman’s first gold medal at the basketball state tournament, and she said she enjoyed rooting on her teammates and helping and supporting them this past weekend.

Jackson County had two teams win silver medals: The five-on-five Tornadoes and three-on-three Cyclones.

In the Tornadoes’ first game, they led 10-5 after one quarter, 15-10 at halftime and 26-18 after three quarters before ultimately winning 34-25 against Grant County.

Josh Beals led the way with 16 points, including two 3-pointers, and A.J. Engel was next with 12 points. The other scorers were Tim Ashburn with four points and Thomas Emly with two.

Ashburn said he was happy to make a couple of baskets in the game, and teammate Derrick Martin was impressed with his team’s showing.

“The first game was good,” Martin said. “We made a lot of shots, and the other team made a lot of shots and free throws, too.”

In the championship game, the offense wasn’t there for the Tornadoes, as they lost 29-13 against Vanderburgh County. Jackson County only had two scorers: Engel with seven points and Beals with six.

Earning a silver medal, Martin said he had a good time over the weekend.

“I liked to play with my teammates, and I liked to see the other teams coming to state. I met new friends,” he said. “I hope we go to state again next year.”

The Tornadoes finished the season with a 5-2 record.

The Cyclones’ first game was against Delaware County, and they coasted to a 20-6 victory. Montana Casto and Kayla Kriete each made three baskets for six points, while Roger Hanner and Cheroki Isgrigg made two field goals apiece for four points.

In the championship against Vanderburgh County, the Cyclones lost 20-12. Casto again scored six points, Kriete had four and Isgrigg had two.

The four Cyclones players each received a silver medal. On the season, the team went 1-7.

Jackson County’s sole bronze medal went to the only other skills competitor, Owen Law. He competed in Division 9 and tallied 60 points for third place.

The Jackson County Tsunamis played a pair of three-on-three games Saturday and placed fourth.

At the end of 20 minutes against Gibson County, the Tsunamis came up short 12-8. Dale Hickman led with six points, and Elijah Noble had two.

In the consolation game, Tippecanoe County came out on top 20-16. Again, Hickman led in scoring, finishing with 12 points, and Donald Bennethum scored four points.

The Tsunamis finished the season 2-6.

The fifth-place finisher was the three-on-three women’s team, the Jackson County Hurricanes. They played Sunday.

In the first game against Boone County, Amanda Hamm’s second basket evened the score at 10, but Jackson County was outscored 10-4 from there and lost 20-14. Averie Brennan led with eight points, and Hamm had six.

Next, the Hurricanes played The Arc of Allen County, and it was a close affair the whole way. When the buzzer sounded after 20 minutes of play, Allen County won 20-16.

Brennan again led the way, scoring 14 points, and Hamm had the other two points.

The Hurricanes received ribbons for their efforts. They finished the season with a 2-4 record.

“Honestly, I can say that I had fun playing both games even though we lost to both teams,” Brennan said.

“To me, I don’t think it’s about whether you win or lose. I think it’s about having a great time and playing with a team and being a part of a team and definitely showing great teamwork and showing sportsmanship,” she said. “Having the ability to help out your teammates, it’s definitely showing some confidence trying to stay positive, for sure. Even if you lose, I want to try to stay positive, and I want to have some hope.”

Brennan said she was proud of how her team played in both games, and she liked competing against the other women’s teams.

“I just like how teams we play against are friendly to us and they are nice to us, and I really like all of the friendly vibes that go on through our games and our teams,” she said. “I like that.”