NEW PARIS — During the fifth annual Preble County Big Dance basketball game, the Cougars defeated the Generals 85-45. This year’s event, which is a fundraiser for Special Olympics, was held at National Trail School on Saturday, March 18.
The Cougars are Preble County’s Special Olympic basketball team. The team plays a full schedule of games throughout the year, against teams from Darke, Miami, Montgomery, and Shelby Counties.
National Trail Superintendent Jeff Parker had been campaigning to “fill the bleachers” prior to the event. Following the game, he confessed he was happy with the turnout. “I’m pretty pleased,” he said. “We might have had a record crowd. We had a number of our basketball team show up, our kids, and that’s good.” He said he would be interested in National Trail hosting the event again next year.
The Cougars’ squad includes Ricky Birkhead, Katy Bishop, Alex Day, Sidney Hoskins, Adam Jackson, Kim Jackson, Kim Mikesell, Brad Mikesell, Chad Mikesell, and Sean Pierce. They are coached by Tim Lane and Chuck Hart.
“Playing on the team is the greatest experience I’ve ever had in my life,” Jackson said. “It’s really good to come out here and play against the Generals. I have a good time with it.”
“I’m very pleased with our performance. We played great, everybody gave 110 percent,” he added. He also asked people to come out to the Cougars’ regular games and support them.”
The Generals are a team of local celebrities from throughout the county. This year’s team included Preble County attorney and retired judge Bill Dues, Preble County Assistant Prosecutor Eric Marit, Preble County Commissioner Denise Robertson, Preble County Commissioner Rodney Creech, Preble County Commissioner Chris Day, City of Eaton Police Chief Chad DePew, City of Eaton Assistant City Manager Joe Ferriell, Eaton Community Schools Health and PE Teacher Joe Ferriell III, Director of Job and Family Services Becky Sorrell, Executive Director of MHRB Amy Raynes, Eaton Police Division Sergeant Steve Hurd, Parker, Preble County Sheriff’s Office Captain Brad Moore, Preble County Sheriff’s Office Detective Andy Blevins, Community Action Partnership Director Keelie Gustin, Janelle Caron of Community Action Partnership, Earl House of Summit Chiropractic, City of Eaton Fire Chief Brian Smith, State Representative Jeff Rezabek, Eaton Police Division Sergeant Eric Beeghly, and Greg Arnett of Cargill.
“This game was enjoyable,” Cougar head coach Lane said. “It’s always fun and it’s good for awareness for these guys. It’s good for people in government to interact with our athletes, people who have to make decisions that affect them every now and then. It’s good to get the one on one time. It’s a good awareness event.”
The Cougars were assisted by their Cheer Team, coached by Shelley Gray, which stars Ellissa Baron, Elizabeth Bresher, Debbie Heaberlin, Sarah Kottke, Lela Lyninger, Heather Nichols, Margie Reckers, Kalie Drewry, and Shelby Hoskins.
The Cougars also have a Skills Team, composed of Eric Bowman, Keith Chappell, Jason Gabbard, Shaunda Kinzer, Sarah Kottke, Dan Linton, Nat Miller, and Chad Swindler. They performed during halftime in a contest versus select member of the Generals.
Lane added, “We’ve been doing softball and basketball for the last 11 years. I helped coach the last 8 or 9 years. It’s enjoyable. A lot of the same athletes play softball and basketball. We play 8 to 10 games per season in most sports, maybe a little more in basketball. We have a track meet that’s usually 150 athletes. We’re going to have that in West Alexandria at Twin Valley South in May.”
At the end of the game, several key participants in Special Olympics were recognized for their roles. Shelley Gray was honored as Volunteer of the Year, Kali Drewry was recognized as Cheerleader of the Year, and Sidney Hoskins was recognized as Player of the Year.
Preble County Special Olympics thanks Heather Nichols for singing the National Anthem, Stephanie Garrett for announcing, and Rob Deaton and Brian Deaton for officiating the game. Cougars coach Lane thanked all those who attended the game.
“We can always use more players. They have to be DD clients, but we are always looking for more players. Anyone who is interested at all, try out,” Lane added.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH