PARIS — While the Maine Principals’ Association handed out gold balls in boys and girls basketball earlier this month — including the Oxford Hills girls team winning Class AA and Dirigo boys winning the Class C state championship — the area hoops season continued on Monday.

Oxford Hills hosted a unified basketball round-robin tournament featuring teams from Lewiston, Edward Little, Mountain Valley/Dirigo and Brunswick.

Just like their varsity counterparts during February vacation and into March, the unified athletes and partners received the star treatment, with stands full of their fellow competitors, friends and family while having the games streamed online at the BRG Sports Facebook page.

This is the second year the Vikings hosted an end-of-the-year tournament.

“We started hosting it last year, and we had a lot of fun hosting it, having everybody here,” Oxford Hills coach Jennifer Mocciola said. “… A couple of years ago, the MPA was looking for schools to host, and kept it close to home for us and all of our fans access to come. It really has been a great thing for players.”

While a gold ball didn’t get handed out on Monday, the players had something to play for: a pizza party for all participants after the tournament concluded.


“They were all talking about pizza after the game,” Edward Little coach Mark Stubbs said.

While hot, sizzling pizza was the end-game for the athletes, for the coaches like Stubbs, the tournament — each team played three 10-minute games — marked an end of progress on and off the court for everyone involved with the unified basketball programs.

“This a celebration of progress,” Stubbs said. “Progress is different for all of us, including me as a coach.”

Most coaches said players improved their basketball skills throughout the season.

Take Lewiston’s Trent Black, who has his patented 360-degree spin — sometimes 720-degree spin — before nailing a jump shot to get the crowd to roar when the ball goes through the net for two points.

“I have made a lot of baskets with it,” Black said after the Blue Devils’ second game of the afternoon against Mountain Valley/Dirigo. “It’s just for fun.”


Lewiston first-year coach Jamier Hall said Black has been working on the spin move all season in practice. Hall said the move is something Lewiston varsity basketball player Deion Jackson can’t replicate.

“He was going one-on-one with the varsity player and (Jackson) was so taken aback from his shot,” Hall said. “(Jackson) tried it and he couldn’t duplicate it. It was amazing; not only did (Black) get a mentor, but he got himself a friend just off that shot.”

Hall was rooting on no matter who was taking a shot. He was cheering as hard as anyone in the building when Mountain Valley/Dirigo players tried to score.

“Our team knows the most important thing here is to have some fun,” Hall said. “Sure, we got the win, but if you aren’t having fun, we aren’t winning anyway. If I see a younger guy making a great shot, I encourage all my guys to cheer for him.”

At certain points during the games, players competed like it was a state championship game, especially in the Lewiston-Edward Little contest.

“It’s that intensity; it’s like the last two minutes of an NBA game or the last 10 laps of a NASCAR race,” Stubbs said. “They love to compete and they want to compete, and this gives them an opportunity to do that multiple times in one road trip.”


Mountain Valley and Dirigo combined for a cooperative team for this tournament, but Dirigo coach Chris Araujo said the time on the court in practices and games helps with the player’s social skills.

“The social skills I am very happy (with),” Araujo said. “They want to have more time together off the court as well.”

Helping Mocciola on the Oxford Hills coaching staff is Mallory Gordon, a student coach. Gordon has seen the growth of the athletes from the beginning of the season to the end.

“You really see their real personalities,” Gordon said. “From the first game to the last game, you watch them grow.”

Gordon, a junior, transitioned from a playing helper last season to a student coach this season as she wanted to get a jump-start on her senior project for next year. The requirement of the senior project is to help out in the community while learning something new.

She has been on unified basketball teams since the seventh grade.

“I love the unified team. Last year, I would go out and help with their gym classes,” Gordon said. “They are super sweet people and not all of them get a chance to be seen as super sweet people.”

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