Breanna Parenteau and her United Basketball teammates are congratulated by members of the Scarborough junior varsity girls’ basketball team after a 58-37 loss Jan. 24 to Bonny Eagle. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

SCARBOROUGH — Scarborough High School senior Ashley Washington likes to play basketball in her free time, but never had an opportunity to join an organized team until now.

Washington is part of Scarborough’s first-ever Unified basketball team, which comprises student-athletes with developmental disabilities with partners that don’t.

“It’s really fun. I get out of my comfort zone and meet new people,” Washington said prior to Scarborough’s first game Jan. 24, a 58-37 loss to Bonny Eagle High School.

Scarborough High School junior Madison Scammell grew up playing team sports, but the Unified team is unlike any other she has played on.

“We were a team from the first practice. We are all friends. It is a lot of fun. We are always cheering each other on,” said Scammell, one of the six partners on the team.

Joining the team was a natural fit for Scammell, who is a part of the Buddy System, a group in which students in mainstream classes build relationships with students in the functional and academic life skills classes by attending games, concerts and other activities outside school. Scammell also helps out in the functional life skills classroom as a volunteer cook.


“I’ve always had a passion for that,” she said. “I think it is a great opportunity to show these kids they are equal to every one else.”

Scarborough’s Jakob McDonough, at right, battles Bonny Eagle’s Josh Small for a rebound early in the teams’ game last week. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

Head coach Albert McCormack, an environmental science teacher at the high school, said Scarborough is a great community for a Unified basketball team.

“We have a strong athletic program and a tight-knit group of students and an inclusive and welcoming group of students who are thrilled to get going,” he said.

The 13-member team will play seven additional games between now and early March; the next is at home at 4 p.m. Friday against Cape Elizabeth.

McCormack said he has seen his team come a long way since it began practicing in early January.

“A lot of the kids are getting involved with sports and basketball for the first time and have been having a lot of fun developing as a team and getting to know each other,” said McCormack, who coached the Unified Basketball team at Greely High School before coming to Scarborough High School.


Noah Fougere, left, helps fellow freshman Nick Veilleux with a shot during Scarborough’s inaugural Unified basketball game on Jan. 24. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

“Unified sports is really changing how we see school sports. It is opening the door and breaking down the barriers for those students who might not have that opportunity to play sports and represent their school, play on their home court before their home fans,” Ian Frank, Special Olympics of Maine’s director of Unified Champion Schools, said.

The Unified Champion Schools model, he said, is more than just about sports. It is focused on creating a more inclusive, compassionate and respectful school environment.

“Students create friendships and bonds that wouldn’t otherwise form if a program like this wasn’t available to them,” Frank said.

The Maine basketball program started six years ago with 17 schools and today has more than 60 participating. Through a partnership with the Maine Principal’s Association, which oversees high school athletics in the state, the Unified program expanded to offer volleyball this fall at two schools and has 10 schools interested in participating in Unified bocce this spring.

Scarborough Athletics and Student Activities Director Mike LeGage said the basketball team may be just the start of Unified sports in Scarborough.

“This is the inaugural group,” he said before the game. “We are excited about other Unified options coming to Scarborough moving forward.”

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