Winning only part of the goal for Lowrance team
For about an hour on March 22, special needs students at Lowrance Middle School were basketball stars.
Cheerleaders cheered them on from the stands, and the crowd lit up, roaring with excitement with every basket. The members of the Lowrance Polar Bears squad responded by playing hard and enjoying every minute of the game.
Lowrance is a special needs school that shares an Indiana Avenue building with Hanes Middle. The team, which includes special needs students from both schools, practices in Lowrance’s small gym. The games are played in Hanes’ gym, complete with a score board and stands filled with students, faculty and family members to cheer them on.
Coach Juwon Crowell, who is in his fourth year as a teaching assistant at Lowrance, said that basketball is a good way to connect to students.
“It’s a great tool for teaching life lessons,” he said. “It’s a great tool for learning goals to be reached.”
The Carver High School graduate knows a thing or two about sports and their benefits. He was wide receiver at East Carolina University, where he earned a degree in child development and family relations. He expects to earn a master’s in athletic administration from Northcentral University in the fall. Crowell’s brothers, Germane and Angelo, both played in the NFL and are known for using sports to reach out to local youth.
Crowell said his players are taught youth basketball with only small modifications. Concepts like box-and-one defense and pick and roll offense make them formidable on the court, he said.
The team plays against other special needs students, both at home and away. The Polar Bears opened their season at Carter High School with a 39-32 victory. Crowell said the students look forward to their games.
“Their excitement level is out the doors; it’s amazing,” said Crowell. “Through the whole week they talk about ‘Coach, when do we have practice? ‘Coach, when is the game?’”
Lowrance Principal Dr. Val Raynor said athletics is one of the ways the school teaches students that they have the potential to excel in many areas.
“Sports is just a great way to get them involved and get them active. They have such pride in teamwork and pride in being able to participate in sports,” said Raynor.
The school also has a cheer squad that performs numerous routines during games and Special Olympics track and field and bowling teams.
“Our goal and school theme is ‘Reaching our Maximum Potential,’ and we work toward that in every area of their development: academics and sports,” said Raynor.
Last month’s game was a rematch for the Polar Bears. They took on the Carter Wildcats at Hanes this time.
As players warmed up for the midday game, they were confident they could pull off another victory.
“We’re going to win,” eighth grader Jair Ortega said with the same big grin he showed on the court every time he got the ball.
Tyrek Patrick, also an eighth grader, said playing ball gives him a chance to prove his doubters wrong.
“I like basketball because people think I can’t play, but I can prove to them that I can,” said Tyrek.
The Polar Bears got their victory, besting the ’Cats 25-16.