Inspired play yields state title for Tigers hoops team

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The Madison County Tigers celebrate their state championship victory: (front row, from left) Kendra Chapman, Coach Billy Fuller, Dawn O’Neil; (second row) Assistant Coach Roger Campbell, Shaundra Sayre, Marley Long and Mike Ellis holding a jersey in memory of Savannah Wilson, Marlyn Zeeck and Mike Long; (back row) Nick Dummitt, Shawn Engle, Adam Campbell, Bryan Thompson and Dominique Gonzalez. Not pictured: Mike Armatrout.
The Madison County Tigers celebrate their state championship victory: (front row, from left) Kendra Chapman, Coach Billy Fuller, Dawn O’Neil; (second row) Assistant Coach Roger Campbell, Shaundra Sayre, Marley Long and Mike Ellis holding a jersey in memory of Savannah Wilson, Marlyn Zeeck and Mike Long; (back row) Nick Dummitt, Shawn Engle, Adam Campbell, Bryan Thompson and Dominique Gonzalez. Not pictured: Mike Armatrout.

Posted March 27, 2014

By Amanda Amsel, Staff Writer

A local basketball team can now add a state championship to their list of accomplishments.

The Tigers, Madison County’s Special Olympics hoops team, won the state title following Final Four action at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) on March 21-22. 

“The core of the team has been together for nearly 10 years and have tried for a long time to win a state championship,” said Lincoln Comer, recreation coordinator for the Madison County Board of Develop-mental Disabilities and coordinator for Madison County Special Olympics. 

The 13-member team dedicated the season to a fellow player who passed away toward the end of last season.

“Savannah Wilson was a player on our team and was a very spirited wonderful player,” said Coach Billy Fuller Jr. “She had a heart condition, but despite that she would try to block the biggest player and never gave up.”

Wilson’s passing broke the team’s heart. They were determined to make this season a winning one to honor her memory. 

After a rocky 1-5 start, the Tigers went on a winning streak, adding six more wins and just one more loss to end the regular season 7-6. They practiced nights after work and school, focused on their goal of becoming champions.

Based on their performance during the regular season, the team was invited to compete in the state semi-finals in Cincinnati. 

“We won both games there and ad-vanced to the state championship at BGSU,” Fuller said. “Last weekend we then competed in the state championship and won.”

This is the fourth time the Tigers have won the state title, also capturing it in 2003, 2008 and 2010. It is the first time Fuller has been the coach.

In 2003, Fuller’s father, Billy Fuller Sr., coached the team to a state victory. When he became ill, Fuller Jr. promise he would keep coaching the team.

“The team dedicated this win to my dad as well, which meant a lot to me,” Fuller said. “I am so proud of all my players. They played a great season.”

Fuller said the most important thing he hopes people will learn from this season is that his players are just like everyone else, they just have some disabilities. 

“I post things on Facebook about how great the team is doing and people will comment and like my posts,” Fuller said. “But, I want people to actually come out and support these players. I want them to come to a game and see them play and see they are normal people just like me and you.”

The players on the 2014 state champion Tigers team are Shaundra Sayre, Bryan Thompson, Shawn Engle, Mike Ellis, Kendra Chapman, Mike Armatrout, Mike Long, Dawn O’Neil, Marlyn Zeeck, Nick Dummitt, Dominique Gonzalez, Marley Long and Adam Campbell. The assistant coach is Roger Campbell; the statistician is Robin Cunningham.

To learn more about Madison County’s Special Olympics program, contact Lincoln Comer at (740) 852-7052.

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