Travis dribbled down the court, paused, put up the shot and…swish. The Epworth junior boys team made another shot late in the game at the annual South Carolina United Methodist Tournament in North Augusta.
“Timeout! Timeout!” said the opposing coach.
The Epworth basketball team’s last score put the game out of reach but there was still time on the clock. As the boys walked over to the bench, the Epworth players appeared to be scheming a new play for when the game resumed.
Epworth’s coaches, Mr. Terry and Mr. Parson, where puzzled. They wondered what Jamal, Kevin, Andy, Jerome and Travis* were up to. “It’s nothing coach, don’t worry about it,” Andy replied. The boys grabbed a sip of water. Then the referee blew his whistle and they ran back onto the court.
When he looked up, coach Parsons realized the other team made a substitution. Into the game came a boy by the name of Bobby who was much smaller than the rest of the boys. It was evident he had special needs. The crowd cheered as Bobby ran onto the court with a contagious smile on his face.
As the ball came down the court, the Epworth boys gave Bobby plenty of room to run around the court. One of Bobby’s teammates took a shot, the ball bounced off the rim and bounced right to Epworth’s center, Jamal. Jamal reached up for the rebound and turned around to find Bobby. When he saw Bobby was just a few feet away, he pretended to bobble the ball and then “lost control” of it as it bounced directly into Bobby’s hands just feet from the hoop.
For just a moment everyone in the stands fell silent. Stunned at what they were seeing.
Bobby snatched the ball and launched a shot but it fell short. Jamal reached up and caught the ball in the air. He turned around and “accidently” dropped the ball right into Bobby’s hands again. Bobby grabbed the ball put up a shot and…swish…the ball dropped right through the basket!
The crowd went wild as the stands and players erupted with cheers. Suddenly the scoreboard seemed completely irrelevant.
Jamal grabbed the ball and passed it to his teammate, Kevin. Kevin also “lost the ball” and it bounced directly to Bobby who immediately put up another shot. Swish…he scored another basket.
The crowd was now moved to tears, as were the Epworth coaches. The secret play the boys had scripted during the last timeout was not about the Epworth team at all, it was about giving Bobby the opportunity to score.
The scene played out one more time and then the final buzzer sounded. Bobby ran around the gym in pure joy with his teammates.
Coach Parson wiped away the tears from his eyes and turned around when a lady tapped him on his shoulder. The lady was sobbing and tears poured down on her cheeks. She composed herself and said, “Coach, I’m Bobby’s mother. That was the first time Bobby has ever scored a basket. He is going to remember this moment forever. We all will.”
For many of the children at Epworth, the campus basketball team is the first time they have played organized sports. The basketball court is a place where they learn valuable lessons and enjoy the feeling of being a part of something bigger. This year’s junior boy’s team, all of whom came to Epworth from a series of tragic situations, came together and gave Bobby the opportunity of a lifetime. Epworth strives to provide many and various opportunities of a lifetime for our residents, and during this game it was evident that our residents are following in our footsteps.
Our boys went on to win the tournament championship that weekend, bringing another trophy home to the Epworth gymnasium. But as Coach Parsons eloquently stated when they returned to campus, “I’m proud of the championship, but our great moment was when our players saw a need and provided for Bobby and his parents. I’m so proud of my boys.”