Plant City beat St. Cloud Feb. 28 with a buzzer-beater to win the 2020 Special Olympics Division 2 Unified Sports Basketball State Championship.
It was a good thing for Plant City High School’s Special Olympics Unified basketball team that Taylor Teeden had practiced his buzzer-beater shot, as that was the difference-maker in their Feb. 28 state championship game against St. Cloud.
“He practices that shot so many times in practice,” Austin Davis said. “He’ll just throw it up like it’s nothing. This time, it worked for us. We thought it was a little funny shooting it, but we needed it.”
The Bulldogs played the Raiders tough all game and didn’t make any points come easy. In fact, they held a nine-point lead over Plant City with two minutes left in the game. But the Raiders’ heart and hustle came out in full force after that, and the team rallied to make it a one-score game when it came down to the wire.
“We just played as a team and pulled through,” Austin Davis said. “Our athletes, they were playing a tremendous game. The other team was really good, they matched our skill level.
Down by two points with just 5.1 seconds left in regulation, the Raiders needed to go coast to coast and make a bang-bang play to beat the Bulldogs. Ayden Perez threw a deep inbound pass to Parker Hancock-Eitenior, who immediately handed off to Teeden like a quarterback to a running back. Teeden crossed center court and fired up a one-footed shot from the three-point line as the clock drained out. The ball took a risky bounce off the base of the rim, but Teeden’s touch was just soft enough that it bounced its way down through the net instead of going back out.
“Ayden was passing it in and I just knew, ‘just get me the ball,’” Teeden said. “They trusted me, so I shot it. I made it and we won. I’ve got to thank Parker and Ayden for that play… it felt good.”
The win gave PCHS its second Unified basketball state championship in one month, as the team also won the Special Olympics 2020 State Basketball Championship in Tavares on Feb. 8.
“It was crazy,” Perez said. “We picked up Taylor and we took him to the crowd with the trophy in his hand. We were jumping up and down. We went crazy.”
After the Raiders play in an exhibition game at Plant High School next month, that’ll be it for basketball season. The next Special Olympics USA Games are scheduled for 2022 and will be held nearby in Orlando, so PCHS is hoping to keep this kind of success up over the next two seasons to get the basketball team back on the biggest stage. The team also went to New Jersey for the 2014 games and, more recently, to Seattle for the 2018 games. Several of the players currently on the team were also there for 2018 and hope to help get PCHS back however they can.