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Franklin - Local Town Pages

Franklin Special Olympics Basketball Wins Gold

By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
While there are many sports that Special Olympians participate in, basketball seems to be one of the games where more players gravitate to, leaving it as one of the tops sports played by its athletes. Representing Franklin, ‘The Franklin Legends’ coached by Rick Cleary and Mark Conley were recently able to guide the local team to bring home gold in their division. 
For the most part, the team has been composed of the same players over the years, but this season, the Legends added a piece in the form of Elvis Lynn that pushed them over the threshold to capture the gold medal. Franklin went undefeated during the regular season but during the Regionals were beat up by Springfield for their one and only loss. Luckily, Franklin didn’t have to square off against the Western Massachusetts team in the State Championship Round. 
Although Franklin was able to avoid the Springfield representative, they almost didn’t get a chance to even take part in the Gold Medal Match. Facing Warham in a first round State matchup Franklin found themselves down by nine points at the half with no sign of their top player in sight.
“Elvis and his roommate (Korey Myers) were running late because of their ride to the game and missed the entire first half. Luckily, they made the game and things changed in our favor during the second half and we won the game,” Assistant Coach Conley said. “His ability makes a lot of difference to this team, and the success we’ve had this year; he’s a tall lanky kid that never seems to tire out, much like the Energizer Bunny.”
Thankfully, Lynn was able to make it to the game to provide the spark the Legends needed to move onto the Gold Medal game, where they ran amok against the NEARC Magic to take home the gold.
Franklin is made up of eight athletes ranging in age from 22-42 years of age. Johnny Dantona, the team’s captain, is the point guard who not only can score when needed, but he knows how to find the open man for the assist.
“He brings the enthusiasm to the court and absolutely loves the game, while some of the other players are happy as clams just to be on the court,” Conley said. “In addition to being the self-appointed captain he is also the Enthusiasm King who likes to get everyone on the team involved, along with Elvis they guided the team to victory.”
Other players on the team are Scott Conley, a power forward who can score and rebound inside and Mark McCarthy, the hustler of the team – a tenacious defender who is usually found on the floor diving for balls. Also representing Franklin are brothers Kevin (big inside rebounding presence and power forward) and Keith (outside shooter who can knock down the 3-point shot) Cleary and Korey Myers, a big passionate kid who is a great defender.
Rounding out the team is Doug McNulty, the team’s elder statesman and cheerleader. According to Conley, McNulty can also score, and when he does, it’s always nothing but net.
When Franklin originally joined the Special Olympics, they began as a unified team with helpers on the court. Unfortunately, according to the Assistant Coach, it is very tough to keep helpers because there are very strict rules about them being at every practice as well as the games and it becomes a very high priority commitment.
A few years back, Franklin decided to make the transition from a unified team to a traditional team. Traditional teams are based on the squad’s abilities and wide spectrum of capabilities and are then placed in one of five divisions. Last season, Franklin found themselves in a division that was well above their capabilities and did not compete that well.
“We shouldn’t have been in the division we were in last year and got crushed on a regular basis. There were a lot of really good teams that just ran over us,” Conley said. “This year, they dropped us to a lower division, and with the success that we had, we may have to move up next year as we beat a lot of our competition handily.”
Although Franklin may find themselves a victim of that success next year, Conley noted, you can only get better if you play better teams.
One of the most important facets of Franklin being able to win basketball gold at the Special Olympics was everyone on the team not only got to participate, but each and every athlete was able to score, not an easy feat.
Now that they’ve had a taste of being on top, the Legends are already looking to repeat next season, no matter what division they happen to be playing in.