The Glens Falls Unified Basketball Team is an inclusive group of athletes made up of special education students and general education students playing side-by-side. The team competes against other Unified teams at high schools around the region, in what is now the third year of this collaborative program between NYSPHAA and the Special Olympics.
What follows below is a unique “coach’s account” by Coach Jared Halliday of this year’s season, which ended with a league championship win over Guilderland on June 2, 2016.
"At the beginning of the season we weren't really sure what to expect from the other teams in the league, but my guys really wanted to go after the championship this year. We had fallen to Ballston Spa last year in the semi-finals, finishing third overall, and had a similar result the year prior.
"Our first game of the season saw us matched up with Amsterdam. They were very tough but we pulled away in the second half to secure our first win.
"In the next two games, we were facing South High and Queensbury---again both were good teams and again two more victories. At that point in the season, the players’ confidence was pretty high . . . and then there was Corinth.
"After taking the initial lead, our game with Corinth turned into a real shootout. The lead changed hands several times throughout the game. However, it was Corinth who had the ball, down by one with five seconds left. Corinth pulled down their own rebound and put the ball back in the hoop as time expired, securing the 55-54 victory.
"Following that loss our players were determined to not be in that position again. Ticonderoga was next and Glens Falls proved to be too much for the Sentinels.
"Now sitting at 4-1, our final regular season opponent was Burnt Hills—another tough team who was also 4-1. They proved to be our biggest challenge of the season thus far. I had told our team if we wanted to get to the championship we had to get by Burnt Hills. They were very good and held us to our lowest scoring output of the season.
"Burnt Hills seemed to have this game wrapped up as we were running out of time, and only had 15 seconds left on the clock. Ryan Anderson brought the ball up the court and drove to the right of the basket, as the defense followed him. He then passed to an open Robbie LaFountain who hit the game-winning jumper as time expired.
"This was the win the boys needed to get over the Corinth loss. This is exactly where we wanted to be, placed in a division with the other top teams: Guilderland (5-0), Columbia (4-1), and our next opponent, Schenectady (5-1).
"We knew it was going to be hot and that Schenectady had a lot of players we had concerns about keeping pace with, but we were able to stay hydrated and held on for the 38-33 win.
"We had done it, moving onto the championship where we would face undefeated Guilderland (6-0)! This was the game we wanted, to play against the best. They proved to be very good as they started the game on a 12-0 run. Things were not looking good for us. Determined to get us scoring, I cleared the bench and told the boys we needed fresh legs and a spark out there on defense. This proved to work well as we went on a 10-0 scoring run. By the end of the half, we had closed the gap 17-14.
"The second half seemed to start out much the same as the first half. Guilderland went on another run, seeming to score at will. However, our team just would not give up. They had come too far and worked too hard in practice all season to let this one slip away. With time winding down, we had tied the game at 29 with three minutes left to play. Guilderland would score one more time to take the lead 31-29, but it was Glens Falls who would capitalize on Guilderland's missed shots and turnovers in the final two minutes to finish the game 37-31 and take home their first championship!
"It has truly been an incredible experience to watch how this team came together and supported one another throughout this season. They never gave up. I'm quite proud to have coached and had an opportunity to share my passion for basketball with this team over the last three seasons.
"I am especially proud of my seniors, Robbie LaFountain (3rd year player) and Ryan Anderson (2nd year player). Robbie, who has been with this team since the beginning, has worked tirelessly to improve each year and had his best games in the semi-finals and finals this year. Ryan joined our team last year after we lost a player and proved to be a great leader on and off the court this season. Both are remarkable young men and will be missed, but we have a great group of players returning next year and have sparked quite a bit of interest from potential students who want to join the team.
"Congratulations Indians on a great season and an incredible run to win the championship."