Guppies no match for Sharks in fundraiser for wheelchair basketball team

Sun News correspondentMarch 5, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- The Houston County Sharks will compete for their fourth consecutive state wheelchair basketball championship Friday, but last week they beat up some notable locals on the court.

The team hosted a celebrity basketball game fundraiser at Houston County High School Feb. 25. The Sharks competed against the Guppies, a team comprising local celebrities and public figures.

As was expected, it wasn’t a very competitive contest as the Sharks defeated the Guppies easily (60-8) for the fourth consecutive year.

“The kids enjoy it, but I think the adults enjoy it just as much even though they get beat every year,” Christy Jones, area coordinator of the Sharks, said. “It’s fun. We just have a great time out here.”

David Bruce, Veterans High School athletics director, said playing basketball while wheelchair-bound was difficult.

“It’s hard enough for me to shoot when I’m not in a chair,” he said. “It’s very challenging. I never realized how much you use your legs shooting a basketball.”

The game was the Sharks’ only fundraising event of the year, Jones said.

“We use the funds that we make to purchase new wheelchairs and new equipment for the kids,” she said. “We use this money strictly for them.”

A large crowd showed up to support the event and share some laughs at the Guppies’ expense.

“This shows you what kind of community that we live in around here,” Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms said. “They come out and support these young people who typically, and probably in other areas, don’t get this type of support. It makes me proud that I’m a part of this community.”

The size of the Sharks’ team has steadily grown since the inception of the program in 2008. The team initially competed with six players and has now doubled its numbers to 13 in two of the sports it competes in.

The team will seek its fourth consecutive GHSA AAASP wheelchair basketball state championship at noon Friday in the Macon Coliseum. The game will be broadcast by Georgia Public Broadcasting.

The Sharks won their semifinal contest by a score of 31-12 over West Georgia, and they will face Henry County in the title tilt.

“It would be a great feeling to top this off with another win in my senior year, and hopefully I can go on to do wheelchair sports in college,” Sharks player Ja-Que Billingsley said.

The Sharks players are true athletes, said Von Lassiter, Houston County athletics director.

“They move with ease, and it just shows how athletic they are,” he said. “They work really hard to be in the shape to do it and have the skills to do it, and it just shows hard work like anything else.”

Contact Ryan Jordan at rjordan398@gmail.com.

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