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Thursday, May 26, 2016
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Challenger Basketball offers many rewards
Penny Frondelli/Herald
Christian Brito is on South High's Challenger Basketball team.

Valley Stream South High School’s basketball program has garnered a lot of attention in recent weeks due largely to its boys’ team making a deep playoff run, but South’s newest basketball team is making some waves of its own.

The school’s Challenger basketball team, which offers students with special needs the opportunity to be part of a school sports team and to compete against neighboring districts, is wrapping up its first season.

Jessica Ricotta, a health and physical education teacher in her first year at South, is the coach of the team. There are 14 students, both boys and girls, in grades 7-12 on the team.

“It has been truly rewarding,” Ricotta said of coaching the team. “It honestly brings joy and a sense of value to my life. This has been an eye-opening experience, witnessing the students’ happiness as they score a basket, bringing a smile to their faces, which resonates within us all.”

Ricotta said Scott Stueber, the Central High School District athletic director, brought the Challenger Basketball Program to her attention earlier in the year. She then met with South Principal Maureen Henry, who shared her enthusiasm for the program and the team was born.

Each member of the team is a Central High School District resident who attend a special program at South. The season began in mid-February and ends in early March. This year, the team was scheduled to play five games against neighboring schools in different districts.

On Feb. 28, South traveled to Oceanside High School to take on the Sailors in a friendly but competitive matchup. The teams first hit the court for warm-ups, then took their positions and the game got underway. Each team scored baskets consistently and the respective coaches made substitutions midway through each of the game’s four quarters so everyone got a chance to play.

Nicole Oviedo, a 15-year-old who attends South, said she has a lot of fun playing basketball. “My favorite part is making a basket,” she said. “I feel excited.”

For Kris Perez, 15, his favorite part is shooting. During the game against Oceanside, Perez was dribbling, shooting and passing all over the court.


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