Hope School in Marianna holds annual basketball tournament

Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 9:06 PM CST
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MARIANNA, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - One area high school basketball team is used to playing hard and winning gold. While that may not sound like a big deal to you, it is for them.

The basketball games are intense.

“The kids love, love, love anything to do with athletics,” said Hope School Principal Millicent Braxton.

It might look like a typical game to you but for these students, it’s a chance to be just like anyone else.

“For them, this is just as real as it would be for a regular high school student to play basketball it absolutely is. They get into it,” said Braxton.

The team is from Hope School in Marianna. “Hope School is a school for folks with special needs and we currently have about 108 students,” said Braxton.

We caught up with the team at the 12th annual Hope School Invitational Tournament where they play teams from other Marianna schools.

“They’ve been playing basketball for years and typically win state, win gold,” said Braxton. “We’ve celebrated about 10 of those state championships.”

The team is really pumped this year.

“Last year we weren’t able to play because of the pandemic. But today they’ve been able to show their skills,” said Hope School coach Dexter Rouhlac. “It’s like Christmas for them.”

And show their skills they did.

“This is important for them. They get to be kids just like everyone else,” said Braxton.

“They love it they put 100% into it they got their heart and soul in it.”

Hope School just moved into a new campus which is the old Riverside school.

“We’ve had fun redoing the gym,” said Braxton. The kids... that was probably the best thing for them was the gym. They didn’t care about anything else just moving to where we had a gym.”

For paraprofessional and coach of the Falcons team Dexter Roulhac, this is the happiest day of the year.

“They don’t have a shut-off valve,” said Rouhlac. “They do more for me than I could ever do for them. I don’t think it’s like any other school in the state of Florida. I mean these kids love you even when you have to get on to them they love you unconditionally. It does something to us.”

“Anytime I can make them happy or let them be as productive as they can be that’s what we want,” said Braxton.

It’s not just the basketball team taking home the gold. The cheerleaders are just as competitive.

“The cheer squad has also won two gold at state,” said Braxton. “They are going to the Special Olympics National Games. They were one of four teams chosen in the State of Florida to represent Team Florida.”

Principal Braxton is always on the front lines cheering her “kids” on.

“Anything these kids want and need they’re gonna get it if I have anything to do with it,” said Braxton. “I love them they’re great kids. They’re great kids to work with.”

There are so many students who want to play basketball. That’s why there are two teams. The varsity team is the Falcons and the Junior Varsity is the Thunderbirds.

The volleyball team at Hope School is also a gold medal winner.

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