Seventh Grader with Down Syndrome Suits Up with Basketball Team

On Tuesday night in Colleyville, it was the last home game of the season for the Colleyville Middle School seventh grade C team, and the championship was on the line.

But for one player the night wasn't about winning or losing.

Sitting on the bench anxiously looking on was 13-year-old Joe McTighe, who just wanted in the game.

Joe has Down syndrome, and though he's played in Special Olympics games, he'd never taken the court with his seventh grade team.

This year, he was with the Colleyville Colts every step of the way.

"He's at practice early. He's there every week. He never misses one," said Joe's special education coach, Gabi Kanterman.

As Joe watched from the bench, his team slowly took the lead over Grapevine.

Then, in the second quarter, it happened: the Colleyville coach called on number 15.

As his parents watched on from the stands, camera in hand, Joe checked into the game.

His first shot was a miss, but as the game went on Joe didn't miss a step – huddling up, cheering on and playing his best.

Then, with 10 seconds left, on a play created just for him, Joe made his first basket in a regular season game.

The gym erupted into cheers.

"That was amazing! He did so well!" cried Kanterman from the bench.

As players and cheerleaders rushed the court, Joe's parents caught their son after the game.

"Yes, yes, yes! Really, as long as he got to play, it didn't matter if he made it or not, but it's special that he did," said mother Kristina McTighe.

"It was unbelievable. You know, when we found out she was pregnant with Joseph and he was going to have Down syndrome, we were scared and we prayed a lot and we prayed for opportunities. And today the opportunity was just unbelievable," said father Chip McTighe.

After the game the seventh grade coach named Joe the player of the game.

Kanterman said everyone could learn a lesson from one of her favorite students.

"There's never anything you can't do if you don't stop yourself," she said.

Chip McTighe said he was just thankful for the support, not only from the Colleyville students and parents, but from the Grapevine team as well.

"You watch the parents, you watch the young man from Grapevine hand him the ball – everybody wanted to see him succeed, and I think it's a great lesson for everybody here," Chip McTighe said.  "I don't know if he knows how much joy he brought to everyone, but he brought a lot of joy."

Next week, Joe will take his skills to the court once more when his Special Olympics team takes on the Grapevine and Colleyville police departments on Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Grapevine High School.

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