There was a lot of noise at the Steinbach Regional Secondary School on Thursday as cheers erupted during the annual Unified Special Olympics Basketball Tournament. 

Phys. Ed. Teacher Karleen Unger says the tournament is a fun event for athletes to showcase their talents and build friendships. 

“Whether it’s our Special O athletes or our unified players, they know exactly what each other needs and they're willing to go hard when the game’s getting tough, but then at the same time ease up when there's certain players that have particular needs as well.”

A group of athletes wearing basketball uniforms and their coaches.

There were 18 teams in the tournament with students coming from Ste. Anne Collegiate, Niverville High School, Glenlawn Collegiate, Garden City Collegiate and SRSS. 

“I get the privilege of playing alongside,” says Steinbach student Peyton Kehler. “We're unifying. We're showing that our school is one big family and that the different disabilities aren't separating you from being a part of that family. So, we're just showing that all of us can play together. We have a good time together; we can smile together and play some basketball together. 

Alex Warren enjoyed playing basketball and hearing all the cheers. 

“We're having so much fun,” he says, adding that great sportsmanship was noticeable with cheers for all players, regardless of the team colours they wore. 

Warren says the loud cheers were energizing and helped calm the nerves. 

Mathew Demetruk tells us what he enjoys about the tournament. 

“Cheering on people and playing, having fun and being with a great team,” he says with enthusiasm. 

The SRSS will host a Unified Bocci Tournament in June, bringing teams together with players of different abilities competing and cheering each other on. 

-With files from Corny Rempel