Snowdogs gear up for states

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PRESQUE ISLE, Me (WAGM) - The State Special Olympics Basketball tournament is this weekend in Gorham at the University of Southern Maine. The Snowdogs will once again be sending three teams downstate to compete and have a weekend full of basketball and fun.

"It's the most exciting time of the year for us, the athletes look forward to this weekend long trip. Two nights in a hotel, out to dinner at restaurants, guest of honor at the Maine Red Claws NBA development team game on Friday night in Portland. We're able to do this because of generous donors in our community. It's expensive to stay two nights in a hotel with that many people and eat out at restaurants and things like that," said head coach Brian Hamel.

Last year every Snowdogs team won a medal for finishing in the top three and they are looking for similar success this year.

"You know they give it their all at all times and so they're fantastic team members. But they've been working on their skills. Dribbling, shooting, rebounding. This is a chance to show off those skills at the state tournament with their peers," Hamel said.

The team got the chance to scrimmage the Presque Isle high school teams again this year and made the most of those games.

"We had a chance to play the Presque Isle boys and we really did great. It was a good lesson learned for both teams. The Snowdogs shined in the end and beat the boys. We also had an impromptu scrimmage against the lady wildcats and it ended in a tie. We had a foul shoot-off in the end and David on our team made two out of three and beat the state champ free throw shooter Emily Lagerstrom in a shoot-off," Hamel explained.

The County has gotten behind the team and many fans will be traveling down to cheer them on the state tournament.

"We have about a 100 people from Aroostook County traveling down to cheer us on. So it's a really exciting atmosphere. We're so thankful for the people that come down to cheer us on. It means a lot to the Snowdogs to see people from their community traveling all that way to cheer them on," he said.

The team will be competing on Saturday, but the trip is about more than just basketball.

"It's not about the winning, it's about the lessons learned, being great teammates, respecting others. It's just a great weekend that I look forward to every year. There will be 11 people playing and the other two teams might not be playing. They are cheering, hollering, screaming, and encouraging their teammates," Hamel said.