MARANA, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Practice might make perfect, but sportsmanship is what is sending ten student athletes to the U.S. Special Olympic games this summer in Seattle.
The basketball team from Mountain View High School competed in last year's state games. Senior Raymond Brennan said it wasn't their wins that earned them an invitation. Their sportsmanship stood out among all the other teams.
"We were playing with other teams, letting them score," he said. "We volunteered to help little kids out, make sure everyone is playing."
Now they will be playing against teams from across the country. The group from Marana Unified School District will join 110 other athletes to represent Special Olympics Arizona.
"It's going to be really fun for us," said Brennan. "It's going to be like the first time anyone's gone in our class."
Brennan plays on a unified team, which means Special Olympic athletes are joined on the court by unified partners. Kiley Horn, a senior on the girls' varsity team, has volunteered since she was in middle school.
She played on the unified team with her brother before he graduated from Mountain View High. Now she's fundraising for a trip to Seattle.
"I'm really excited to go because it kind of shows that our efforts aren't being ignored, they're being seen," she said. "A lot of the times they're excluded and this is where they get to be themselves and show off what they have."
What they have is heart. The players know the points on the board aren't as important as including everyone, even the other team on the court.
"More passing is more friends," said Brennan.
It will take $12,000 to cover the travel and lodging expenses for ten athletes and two adult chaperones, according to teacher and team coordinator Meaghann Montanaro.
She said they're planning events and searching for corporate sponsorship. Montanaro said she's noticed the teamwork she sees on the court spread into the classroom and the rest of the school.
"You see them in the hallways greeting each other," she said. "Our unified partners now have our athletes come sit with them at lunch, help them out...it's now growing on our campus."
She said the trip to Seattle will be eight days, with activities planned both on and off the court. The games are scheduled for July 1 - July 6.