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The Commons
Photo 1

Randolph T. Holhut/The Commons

Leland & Gray's Sammi Pelton gets ready to take a shot during the first half of their Unified basketball game against Brattleboro on March 29.


Unified basketball expands to Leland & Gray

Originally published in The Commons issue #402 (Wednesday, April 5, 2017).

Brattleboro’s unified basketball program started up last year as part of a pilot program with the Vermont Principals’ Association, in partnership with Special Olympics Vermont, that created Vermont’s first interscholastic Unified Sports basketball league.

There were only a few schools participating last year but this year, there are six other Southern Vermont schools with teams joining in with Brattleboro and local newcomer Leland & Gray — Springfield, Hartford, Mill River, Rutland, Otter Valley, and Middlebury.

Northern Vermont schools include Burlington, Champlain Valley, BFA-St. Albans, Milton, Montpelier, Mount Mansfield, and Colchester.

Special Olympics Unified Sports pairs up athletes who may have physical, developmental or cognitive disabilities with peer partners who compete together in various sporting events. The goal is bringing together students with and without disabilities on the same team, and shattering stereotypes and creating communities of inclusion in the process.

In unified basketball, there are three players and two partners on the floor. The flow of play is designed so that the players are given the maximum opportunity to shoot and score.

“We tried to start up a team last year, but we couldn’t quite get it off the ground,” said Leland & Gray athletic director Marty Testo. “It was discouraging, but we got the support we needed this year.”

Terry Merrow, the varsity girls’ basketball coach, and Phoebe Connolly, the middle school girls’ basketball coach, lead the Rebels’ Unified team. Todd Bell returns for his second season with the Colonels Unified squad.

Connolly said she enjoys seeing the interactions on and off the court. “You never know what kind of unique connections come out of this,” she said.

Merrow agreed. “You can see the joy on everyone’s faces,” he said.

There were plenty of fans in the stands to watch the Rebels, and nobody seemed to mind that the Colonels won, 42-24. Everyone in the gym seemed happy to be part of the experience.

And that happiness seems to be contagious.

“I’m getting lots of interest from students who want to be part of this,” said Merrow. “And the community support has been great. The people always come out to the games, no matter which sport is being played.”

Brandon Holcomb scored 12 points, all in the second half, to lead the Rebels. Ben Stone and Savannah Lawley each added 4, and Sammi Pelton and Teresa Derosia each added 2.

Zach Smith and Kayla Perro each scored 10 points for the Colonels. Cody Hellus and Jacob Williams each added 8, and Joy Young and Kayli Nicholson scored 4 points each.

Unified basketball games will continue for the rest of this month, with the playoffs set to begin on May 3, culminating with the championship game at Castleton University.

Spring openers set

• Vermont’s baseball, softball, track, lacrosse, and tennis teams await the scheduled start of the spring high school sports season in the coming days.

If the weather cooperates, opening day for Vermont softball is scheduled for Friday, April 7. Leland & Gray will host Hartford that day, while Twin Valley travels to North Clarendon to face Mill River, and Bellows Falls is at Fair Haven. All games start at 4:30 p.m.

Brattleboro opens the season on April 13 at Fair Haven.

• Baseball is also set to begin on April 7, as Brattleboro hosts Mill River for a 5 p.m. game at Tenney Field. On Monday, April 10, Brattleboro hosts Bellows Falls for a 5 p.m. game at Tenney Field.

Leland & Gray postponed its home opener against Black River on April 20, so the Rebels will have to wait until April 13, when they open in Rutland against Mount St. Joseph at 4:30 p.m. Twin Valley opens on the road in Arlington on April 12, also at 4:30 p.m.

• Girls’ lacrosse is scheduled to get going on Monday, April 10, when Brattleboro opens the season at Belchertown, Mass., in a 4 p.m. match.

• Boys’ lacrosse begins Friday, April 14, when Brattleboro travels to Manchester to take on Burr & Burton.

• Girls’ tennis starts on April 6, as Brattleboro travels to Rutland to play Otter Valley indoors at 4 p.m. Bellows Falls begins its season on April 13 at Otter Valley at 5 p.m.

• Track begins on April 14, with a 4 p.m. meet with Bellows Falls at the Hadley Field complex in Westminster.

• Boys’ tennis begins for Bellows Falls on April 12 when they travel to Burr & Burton for a 4 p.m. match. Brattleboro opens its season on Saturday, April 15, with an 11 a.m. match at Rutland.

Rockin’Ham 5K returns for third year

• Central Elementary School in Bellows Falls will host its third annual Rockin’Ham 5K on Saturday, April 8. The 5-kilometer race will begin and end at the school, located at 50 School St. Extension.

Runners may register online at, or paper registrations may be downloaded from the CES website at, or be picked up at Central School. Same-day registration will begin at 9 a.m., and the race begins at 10:30 a.m.

A raffle drawing will also be held on the same date. Raffle tickets may be purchased from any Central School student or by contacting the school at 802-463-4346. All proceeds from the race benefit the Central School Parent Teacher Organization for programs, field trips, and residencies for Central School students.

Coaches learn about drug abuse prevention

• On March 28, 23 coaches from Windham County schools attended the Life of an Athlete (LOA) Coaches Clinic in Brattleboro.

The coaches at the training not only learned about improving the performance of athletes, but also the impact of substance use on athletes and the important role and influence that coaches have in the lives of their student-athletes.

John Underwood, the founder of the Life of an Athlete-Pure Performance-Human Performance Project, facilitated the full day of training. He has been a crusader for drug-free sport at all levels and has worked extensively with Olympic and professional sports and with nearly all of the sport federations. He is a former NCAA All-American, international-level distance runner and World Masters Champion.

The LOA training covered human performance, training, and all the typical coaching topics, as well as substance abuse — how it affects athletes, promoting a “no use message,” as well as confronting behavior concerns.

The training was sponsored by the Windham County Partnership for Success, which is a collaboration of four Windham County substance abuse prevention coalitions — the Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition, the Deerfield Valley Community Partnership, Greater Falls Connections, and West River Valley Thrives.

Senior bowling roundup

• Week 11 of the winter season of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League saw Team 7 (35-20) overtake Team 2 and Team 10 (both 33-22) to move into first place. Team 10 (33-22) moved into third and Team 4 (30-25) is now in fourth, followed by Team 6 and Team 9 (both 29-26), Team 1 (28-27), Team 8 and Team 5 (both 21-34), and Team 3 (16-19).

Edna Fletcher had the women’s high handicap game (242), while Roberta Parson had the high handicap series (675). Jerry Dunham had the men’s high handicap game (287) and Peter Cross had the men’s high handicap series (656). Team 9 had the high team handicap game (883), while Team 7 had the high handicap series (2,443).

Bob Wistrom (509), Cross (548), Warren Corriveau Sr. (594), Dunham (585), Fred Ashworth (554), and Tom Johnson (523) all rolled 500-plus series. Cross (200), Corriveau (224), Dunham (266), and Fred Ashworth (201) all had 200-plus games.

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