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STRASBURG -  Tuscarawas County's Special Olympic coordinator is thanking everyone who helped make this year's multi-county friendship basketball game another huge. 

Richelle Lefler says their third-annual friendship game was held last month at Strasburg-Franklin High School with 28 players from Tuscarawas, Belmont, Coshocton and Guernsey counties joining forces to deliver a game full of heart, determination, skill, and sportsmanship. She thanks the fans, coaches, players, cheerleaders, and announcers for setting the stage for what some spectators described as the best basketball game they witnessed all season.

The colors for the game were pink and green, as selected by the Tuscarawas County Special Olympics Athlete-Leadership Council.  At the end of the game, the pink team edged out the green by a score of 43-41.  Alex Adkins (Rockets Maroon) led the pink team with 12 points, while Zac Ferguson (Guernsey) and Darnell Meely (Stark) had 14 and 10 points respectively for the green team.  

The county's Athlete-Leaders group also presented the Spirit of Tuscarawas County and Community Partner awards during a pre-game ceremony. 

The Spirit award went to Strasburg-Franklin schools for exemplifying and embodying the spirit of Special Olympics by promoting inclusion for all. Athlete-Leaders Steve Hazelip and Alex Adkins presented the award and had this to say about the district:

“This year’s recipient [of The Spirit of Tuscarawas County Award] not only filled the stands, they brought a pep band, a biddy dribblers club, student-athletes, and several community members [to support us]. They cheered for us, played songs for us, performed for us, and most importantly accepted us as their own. When our teams advanced in tournaments or secured victories throughout the season, their Athletic Director [Gary Spinell] was the first to email our Local Coordinator to congratulate the Rockets. When we needed a full-court gym to prepare for the post-season or games got canceled, they were the first school to offer us space. And, beyond the court, when we started hosting our first home flag football games this past fall, this was the same school that allowed us to use their stadium, complete with press box and pep band. Our motto for this season has been, 'One team. One dream.' This school has been part of our team and has definitely helped our dreams come true.”  

The Community Partner Award went to Alan and Holly Metzcar for their commitment to helping Tuscarawas County Special Olympics achieve their goals. Athlete-Leaders Rebekah Rothel and Rachael Russell presented the award and had this to say about the Metzcars:

“As anyone who is part of Special Olympics will tell you, it takes a team effort to make sure us athletes have what we need. Our coordinators, volunteers, family members, and so many others work hard to make sure that we are taken care of.  And while every single person and contribution matters, last year, we started recognizing the efforts of one group, one pair, or one individual who also helped our dreams come true through partnering with Tuscarawas County Special Olympics. Many of you will probably recognize this year’s recipients. They are at every game, many of our practices, many of our competitions, and many of our events.  They are often the first ones here and the last ones to leave.  They serve us, love us, cheer for us, take pictures, and help us all. They organize fundraisers, promote the Rockets to anyone who will listen, and form bonds with us and our families. Never once have they asked for anything in return. Without their love and support, our organization would not be as strong as it is.”

Serving as officials for the game were Mike Spinell and Ken Schaffer, both long-time supporters of Special Olympics with Bailey and Terry Sites as guest announcers.  Jalen Berry from Coshocton County sang the National Anthem, and Jehred Bennett from Tuscarawas County recited the Special Olympics Athlete Oath.  

Representing the pink team were Alex Adkins, Gary Barnes, Jalen Berry, Russell Carpenter, Brandon Hahn, Kadyn Cook-Linamen, Adam Finch, LaTasha Fralin, Charlie Hall, Matthew Medley, Eric Pridgon, Stevie Rawlins, and Austin Trimmer. The team was coached by Lance Richards (Belmont), Javanna Ramsey (Coshocton), Rich Lynch (Guernsey), and Ashley Metzcar (Tuscarawas Rockets Maroon).  

Representing the green team were Dustin Anderson, Easton Dillon, Zac Ferguson, DJ Hall, Jason Hall, Deric Johnson, Donovan Justice, Jacob LaVigne, Jessica McKeen, Darnell Meely, Coalton Mobley, Jason Murray, Keshon Petteway-Courtright, and Ty Yingling. The team was coached by Mary Coleman (Stark), Pat Dillon (Tuscarawas Rockets Silver), Tori Powell (Belmont), and Hunter Young (Belmont).  

Members of the pink team’s pep club included Kaylee Arthurs, Chelsea Lefler, Liz Lippencott, Mary Miller, Anne Moore, Rebekah Rothel, Ginger Stalcup, and Amanda Wills.  The green team’s pep club included Dolly Alsept, Summer Donda, Kaylea Jones, Lexi Lacheta, Samantha Mastroine, Alexis Partridge, Stacey Shroyer, Christen Staten, and Nicole Young. Kat Arthurs (Tuscarawas), Joyce DerWort (Guernsey), and Rhonda VanFossen (Tuscarawas) coached both pep club teams.


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