Carson Hodsdon, center, and Jose Hernandez-Castro react as a teammate narrowly missed a shot during a game at Mackworth Island. Carson is making a sign for “almost”. The Seagulls players come from different area schools to represent the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing/Governor Baxter School for the Deaf.

Carson Hodsdon works on shooting during a practice at Mackworth Island. Basketball was traditionally part of the school’s activities, but the organization did not have enough kids or money to form a team in recent years.

Coaches Matt Welch, right, and Jennfier Hickey indicate a play to the players during the Seagulls’s final season game played at Mackworth Island.

Timote Ntima, center, follows as assistant coach Jennifer Hickey leads a dribbling drill during a practice. Most of the kids who signed up had never played the game, and they found not only a new sport but also a place to connect with deaf and hard-of-hearing peers.

From left, teammates Timote Ntima, Dierk Kampemana, Gabriel Alberto, Hunter Deane and Abel Celestino stand for the national anthem before a game at Pine Tree Academy.

Baxter Seagulls players react on the bench during a game at Pine Tree Academy.

Dierk Kampemana works on shooting during practice at Mackworth Island. The Governor Baxter School for the Deaf opened on the island in 1957 and operated as a boarding school until 2009. MECDHH/GBSD is still headquartered on its historic campus and operates a preschool there. But its model has changed, and its reach is statewide. The staff works in public schools across Maine to support more than 700 students who communicate in both ASL and English.

Jayson Seal dribbles down the court during a game against visiting Pine Tree Academy. He is in sixth grade at Philip W. Sugg Middle School in Lisbon. Basketball isn’t his favorite sport – he prefers soccer – but he immediately said yes when his parents asked if he wanted to play with other deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Fans wave their hands in the air to express applause in ASL after the Seagulls scored a basket in their final game.

Coach Matt Welch tells his players to set plays during a timeout in a game. Jayson Seal, center, was able to communicate directly with Coach Matthew Welch and his teammates and work on technical skills, helping him improve his game over the season, which is something he struggled with on the recreational basketball team he was playing on before, according to his mother.

Players reach for a rebound during a game at Pine Tree Academy in Freeport. The Seagulls played local teams of hearing students and also traveled to play teams from other deaf programs in the region.

Coach Matt Welch works on shooting form with Jayson Seal and Gabriel Alberto, right, during practice.

Timote Ntima guards Carson Hodsdon during practice at Mackworth Island. The children comeff from across southern Maine to practice on the island after school. Some live in Portland, but others travel from Lisbon Falls or Windham. Some started their education at the preschool on the island, while others are immigrants who knew neither English nor ASL when they moved to Maine.

Coach Matt Welch explains the play to Dierk Kampemana during a timeout in a game in Freeport. Most of the kids who joined the team had never played the game, and they found not only a new sport but also a place to connect with deaf and hard-of-hearing peers.

Abel Celestino checks to make sure teammate Gabriel Alberto is okay after he got hit with the ball during practice. Abel, a fifth grader at East End Elementary School in Portland, learned the rules from YouTube videos he watched at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abel Celestino reacts after making a basket during the team’s final game. “I’m not really a great basketball player yet,” he said through an interpreter. “I know if I practice, if I practice the double dribble between my legs, I can get better.”

Assitant coach Jennifer Hickey congratulates the play of Gabriel Alberto, right, after he came off the court, while teammate Timote Ntima smiles.

Coach Matt Welch pumps up his team before their final game. “The basketball team coming back together again not only just after Covid shutdown, but also after a 6-year hiatus is a wonderful representation of how much this organization has grown and thrived through the challenging years of the pandemic,” said Karen Hopkins, the organization’s executive director.

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