In year four of the growing partnership between Special Olympics Florida and the Florida High School Athletic Association, Special Olympics Florida athletes and unified partners have the unique opportunity to compete interscholastically and receive varsity letters through unified basketball and track & field. The start of 2018 culminated the fourth season of league play statewide and featured the best sixteen Unified Champion Schools basketball teams in the state in Special Olympic Florida’s third Regional Tournament hosted by the University of Central Florida.
All participating teams advanced based on the four game league play game they are required to play in order to advance to the Regional Tournament. Upon the completion of each schools league play season, teams advance to the Regional Tournament based on their respective win/loss record. Head to head match-ups and points allowed are used in tie breaker scenarios.
The Regional Tournament consists of the best eight teams in each of the two interscholastic divisions available in Florida. With eight teams in each bracket, the tournament is run in a single elimination format to determine which four teams will advance to compete in the 2018 Florida High School Unified Basketball State Championship at The RP Funding Center in Lakeland, Florida.
Upon the completion of the 2018 Regional Tournament, eight schools from six different counties throughout the state of Florida advanced to compete in the 2018 State Championship. The final four for Division 2 are St. Cloud High School, Immokalee High School, Golden Gate High School, and Seabreeze High School. Division 2 winners competed in the FHSAA State Championship with St. Cloud vs. Seabreeze in the consolation game and Golden Gate vs. Immokalee competing to be the Division 2 state champion in which Immokalee HS broke through and won the Division 2 state championship. The final four for Division 1 were Hamilton High School, Columbia High School, Poinciana High School, and Homestead High School. Division 1 will compete in FHSAA State Championship with Columbia HS vs. Homestead HS in the consolation game and Hamilton HS vs. Poinciana HS in a rematch of the 2017 state championship with Hamilton HS prevailing and winning the Division 1 state championship for the second time in 3 years.
Through Special Olympic Florida’s partnership with the FHSAA, it has enabled our organization to create opportunities and further highlight the impact of Unified Sports. We have seen the number of unified teams in basketball grow considerably over the past four years with year 1 consisting of only 14 teams, years 2 having 35, years 3 having 52, and where we are now in year 4 with 69 teams state wide competing in the Special Olympics Florida Interscholastic Unified division.