Tye Flukinger had the ball at the top of the key, keeping possession for the B.C. Ogopogos at the Special Olympics Canada Antigonish Summer Games on the weekend in Nova Scotia.
The exhibition game against host Nova Scotia was important, used to help decide division placement for both teams, but Flukinger, from Kamloops, was more concerned with her teammate, 48-year-old Tessa Allwood, who had never scored a basket for the Ogopogos in any competition.
Flukinger, who had a clear lane to the basket, dished to Allwood, the athlete from Salmon Arm who was about to benefit from a showing of sportsmanship that reflects the values of the Special Olympics.
The Nova Scotians backed off, realizing Allwood desperately wanted to find twine in front of her mom, who was watching in the crowd.
Allwood’s offering clanged off the rim, but bounced into the basket.
“I’m getting misty eyed just talking about it,” said Leah Briault, the Ogopogos’ head coach. “The crowd exploded and Tye and other teammates hugged Tessa and she put both arms in the air, jumping for joy.”
“She [Tye] is a true leader on the court. She is the Cadillac of our team, leading by example.”
The Ogopogos posted a 4-0 record in the Red C Division and won gold, knocking off the Alberta Thunder 23-13 in the championship tilt.
Terrance Haimila of Kamloops is among the Team B.C. members who brought hardware back to the Tournament Capital.
“He would never have been picked in high school for any sport, but is he ever a force on that court now,” said Briault, who was praised by Flukinger’s mom, Susanne, for the time she spends with Special Olympics athletes in Kamloops. “He got three-pointers and he has the courage it takes to shine.”
The Ogopogos, who posted a 3-0 record and won gold in their division at the 2017 Special Olympics B.C. Summer Games in Kamloops, may have done enough to earn a trip to the world championships, which will be held in Abu Dhabi in March, but nothing has been confirmed.
“It was such an eclectic, diverse experience,” Briault said. “Tye and Terrance both came out of their shell.”
Flukinger, Haimila and Allwood’s teammates include Aaron Dixon of Kelowna, Ashley Philips of Vernon, Erin Murphy of Vernon, Ethan Sun of Kelowna, Gary Pollen of Vernon, Katelyn Oliver of Vernon and Nathan Luoma of Campbell River.
Joining Briault on the sidelines in Nova Scotia were a pair of assistant coaches, Donny Gillanders of Richmond and Geoff Uttley of Surrey.