The Grant County Special Olympics Miners challenged the law enforcement team in a basketball showdown Thursday evening at the Prairie City School gym.

“The crowd was generous and supportive,” said Miners head coach Dave Hoeffner.

He said shooting the ball, rebounding and defense were key in their preparation.

“The team worked hard this year,” he said. “Their skill level has improved.”

He said two of his players were unable to play this year, and he hopes they’ll be able to join them next season.

John Day Police Chief Mike Durr said the event was fun.

“I think next year we’ll practice more, and we’ll be ready for them,” he said.

JDPD Officer Andrew Martin said he’s had some experience coaching basketball in Baker City.

“I love basketball and helping other people enjoy basketball,” he said.

Joining the action on the law enforcement team were Oregon State Police Detective Erich Timko and Trooper Jake Reeves and Grant County Search and Rescue volunteers Sam Palmer, who is also a Grant County commissioner, and Pastor Randy Johnson of the John Day Church of the Nazarene.

Miner Caleb Madsen scored two 2-pointers and three 3-pointers for the night. He said it was “cool” when Johnson threw him a rebounded ball, which led to Madsen scoring 3 points.

“It’s not about who’s the best. It’s about having fun,” Madsen said.

“I enjoyed that the law enforcement officers came out and played with us,” said Miner Crystal Wimberley. “Our team has worked really hard this year, and it really paid off. We hope to come back here next year.”

Other Miners team members were Brian McKrola, Charley Fronapel, Elizabeth Swarthout, Josiah Hoeffner and Katie Shockley, and all contributed in scoring.

The annual basketball game is the main fundraiser for the local Special Olympians, and the funds go toward their travel and uniform expenses.

Special Olympics assistant coaches and unified partners were Jannet Hoeffner, Jason Leighton, Lauri Shockley and Deronda Lallatin.

Other volunteers were Pastor Levi Manitsas of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship as announcer and referees Darrel McKrola and Ray Wenger.

Lallatin and Kathy Jo Gill are local co-coordinators for the Grant County Special Olympics program.

The team’s next sport is soccer with practices starting up in mid-April at the Seventh Street Complex.

On June 7-8 the local Special Olympians will compete at Providence Park in Portland, home of the Timbers.

Lallatin said they welcome more to join the Special Olympics team, as well as those who would like to play as a volunteer unified member (someone who plays the game, supporting the Special Olympics team members). For more information, call Lallatin or Gill at Sue Z Q’s Thiftstore, 541-575-0715.

Angel Carpenter is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. She can be contacted at angel@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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