North Texas team lets opponent with special needs score in playoff game

Some North Texas high school basketball players lost their playoff game but are being called heroes anyway. With two minutes left in the game, they gave another kid a chance to play.

It was a game that reminds us sometimes winning really isn't everything. It was the last two minutes of the regional semifinals between the Italy Gladiators and the Tenaha Tigers.

Emotions were high as Italy saw the game slipping out of reach. But then a few players noticed something even the ref had not — Tenaha put in a player who was physically and mentally disabled.

“I gave number 33 the ball and said ‘Come here,’” said sophomore student Christian Washington. “And our crowd was like, ‘What are you doing? We're losing!’ They didn't know. "

But the crowd figured it out quickly and gave the referee an earful when he gave Dusty Thomas two penalties.

Senior student Kenneth Norwood explained the situation to the referee.

“They called travel and double dribble on him twice,” Kenneth said. “He said, ‘Y'all's ball.’ So I just gave it back to the kid."

Thomas made his shot, and the Italy players continued to dish him the ball three more times before the game ended.

“We made eye contact and knew what the right thing to do was,” Kenneth said.

“I was like, it doesn't matter,” said junior student Kendrick Norwood. “Let's give him time to shine.”

Italy High School Athletic Director David Weaver watched it all play out from the stands.

“Time stood still. We were able to enjoy the moment. Did it catch us off guard? No doubt,” he said. “We were able, as a community, to take a time out and enjoy the moment. Italy High hasn't had a state championship in 20 years. The community had hoped this team would be the ones to bring that trophy home. "

Weaver was on that championship team in 1997. He says he's just as proud of his players now as he would be if they'd won the trophy.

“Those last two minutes will last longer than a trophy,” he said.