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By Josh Perry
Hometown Weekly Staff
The Needham High girls’ basketball team went into its final two games of the season knowing that it needed a pair of wins to stay alive for the state tournament. In the end, it only took one to seal the Rockets’ fate.
Despite having multiple possessions in the fourth quarter with the chance to tie the game or take the lead, the Rockets could not get over the hump and lost to Westwood 60-55.
“Honestly, there was no doubt in my mind that we were going to win this game,” said Needham coach Amanda Sheehy. “The way we were playing I thought all of those shots were going in and you know what, we would take any one of those shots a hundred times over.”
It was a hard-fought battle against a top 20 team and the No. 1 seed in Div. 2 South, so Sheehy was able to find positives even in defeat.
She explained, “The way that they fought, normally I’d be really mad, but they fought so hard. I’ll take that game over and over. I’m proud.”
More important than the action on the court was a group of visiting students in the bleachers from the Crossroads School in Natick, where Sheehy works as an adaptive physical education teacher. The students, who have autism, cheered on the Rockets from the stands and shot around during halftime.
As she walked over to greet the students after the game, Sheehy had a wide grin on her face. Seeing the Crossroads students at a game and sharing the experience with the Needham players put the loss in perspective.
“It means so much and my Needham team…it’s such a mutually beneficial relationship in terms of the [Crossroads] kids getting exposure to typical situations that every other kid gets exposed to,” Sheehy said.
To accommodate the students, a section of the bleachers was blocked off near the entrance to the gym, there were snacks at the concession stand, and the pregame music was turned to a lower volume. The excitement level was high when the students took the court at halftime to shoot around and, as a press release from the school put it, “show off their new skills” learned in Sheehy’s class.
Kevin Hardy, Program/Education Director at Crossroads School, added, “The experience of going to a high school sporting event is one that most students have the opportunity to enjoy and one that many of our families may feel apprehensive about bringing their students to…we can help them to access new experiences, generalize skills learned in the classroom, and grow autism awareness in our local communities.”
The Crossroads students had worked with the Needham players in the past at practices and other get -togethers and Sheehy saw that as a positive experience for both sets of students.
“A lot of parents don’t feel comfortable bringing them to games like this,” she said, “so to give them an environment where they feel comfortable is amazing and for the Needham kids it grows their awareness and the relationship that has been built is so amazing and it’s only going to grow.”
Needham closed out its regular season with a win against Dedham and finished at 9-11.
Josh Perry is an Editor at Hometown Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.