Trailing by five points late in their state semifinal, Brad Parks thought his Bartholomew Brown Jackson Heat team’s basketball season was coming to an end.
The Heat, however, came back to send the game into overtime and pulled out a 31-28 victory against the Porter County Crusaders. The next day, the Heat downed the Jackson County Tornados 38-26 to capture the Division 3 title at the Special Olympics State Championship at Indiana State University.
“It was like a dream,” Parks said. “In the semifinal game, when we were down 21-16; we thought it was all over. Then one of our worst free-throw shooters banked both of the free throws in to send it into overtime. We took over from there.”
Parks led the Heat with 11 points in the semifinal, which was played on his 41st birthday. His wife Renee and son David also play for the Heat.
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“I’ve played since I was 14 years old, so to come home with the gold was a great feeling,” Renee Parks said.
David Parks scored 11 points in the title game. Chris Fear led the Heat with 12.
“It felt really awesome,” David Parks said. “We played as a team. We worked as a team. We had someone help us get ready for state. We had coaches. We had fans.”
Chaz Rothrock had four points and three steals in the championship game.
“It was awesome,” Rothrock said. “I’m so happy.”
Ellen Norfrey, along with her husband Jerry, coached the Heat team.
“They’re my family,” Ellen Norfrey said. “I yell at them like a momma and hug them like a momma. But they know what to do when I ask them to do it.
“It was an honor to win in our division,” she said. “This is our third year together, and it was an honor to get that far. We were just excited to be at the state competing.”
Bartholomew Brown Jackson (BBJ) also fielded a team called the Warriors in Division 4. The divisions are based on skill level, with Division 1 being the highest.
After a surprising sectional title, the Warriors finished third at state. They finished 1-8 and were coached by BBJ Special Olympics coordinator Susie Warnell and assisted by her husband, Dan.
“(The Heat) came together pretty well,” Susie Warnell said. “We had a pretty good season when we played games against other counties and participated in a couple invitational tournaments.
“The Warriors, we didn’t expect them to get anywhere near going to state,” she said. “That was a surprise. The Heat did an excellent job, and they were tough once they got there.”
The Heat, which had players from ages 21 to 41, had been practicing since October. One of their assistant coaches was Lyric Jackson, a senior who played basketball at Columbus East.
“They listened very well,” Jackson said. “It was a lot of fun. I wish I could do it every year now.”
Jackson, who plans to major in sports marketing and management at Indiana University, took on helping the Heat and Warriors as her senior project. East assistant girls basketball coach Kylie Weichman was her mentor.
“I have some family members who are in wheelchairs, and I have a nephew who has autism,” Jackson said. “Our whole family is all about sports. Kylie and I got together and talked about it one day, and she gave me the idea of doing something with Special Olympics. I thought maybe I’d do basketball because that’s my favorite sport. It’s been a joy.”
It was also a joy for Warnell, who started volunteering in 1991 and took over as county coordinator in 1999. She is retiring at end of June.
“It was awesome,” Warnell said. “I cried.”
The Bartholomew Brown Jackson Heat went 10-1 and won the Division 3 state title this season. Their game-by-game results:
Jan. 10;Clark County Warriors;W 23-16
Jan. 10;Monroe County Cutters;L 25-24
Jan. 31;Johnson County Warriors;W 16-10
Feb. 1;Decatur County Jaguars;W 41-33
Feb. 1;ROD Mustangs;W 38-33
Feb. 4;BBJ Warriors;W 27-16
Feb. 11;Jackson County Tornados;W 29-17
March 21;Wayne County Dragons;W 34-19 (sectional)
March 21;Shelby County Red Devils;W 34-33 (sectional)
March 28;Porter County Crusaders;W 31-28, OT (state)
March 29;Jackson County Tornados;W 38-26 (state)