Effingham Co. girl with Down Syndrome now recognized for basketball skills

EFFINGHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Sometimes a game can mean more than the final score.

Kristen Fears was the manager for the Effingham County Middle School girls' basketball team last year - a job the coach says she did with pride.

Kristen also has Down Syndrome, but that means nothing to the squad.

This year, Kristen became an "official" member of the team. She participated in every practice and assisted any way she could on the bench.

Effingham County coach Kelly Rahn said Kristen still held the position of manager but was included on the roster for several games.

Right before Effingham's playoff game with Richmond Hill, two starters were injured. That didn't bode well for the final score of the game versus the Wildcats, but the score doesn't always matter.

Coach Rahn said she decided to empty the bench and let everyone play. With a minute to go in the game, she asked Kristen if she wanted to play.

Kristen, of course, said yes.

During her brief time on the court, Kristen took her shot. The video shows what happened next:

"At the end of the game when she went in, they worked really hard to get her the ball and she kept throwing it back to them, and they tried to get her the ball again, and she took that shot and both benches just erupted. The whole gym erupted. It was great," Coach Rahn said.

Now, she has the best shooting percentage on the team.

"I was really excited. I was rooting for her. She's just amazing," said team members Makenzie Cooler and Ivey Rahn, Effingham County Middle School.

Kristen's teammates might not remember the final score of Monday's game, but they won't forget one scoring play and the Hometown Heroes who made it possible.

"They were so excited. I was expecting to go into the locker room and it was their last game and have the eighth graders crying and when I turned the corner to go into the locker room, all I could hear was 'Kristen, Kristen, Kristen.' They were cheering and singing her praises. It was wonderful. It was all about the girls and that experience of getting Kristen to have her turn," said Coach Rahn.

Kristen Fears may have Down Syndrome, but on campus, she will be recognized as a baller.

Copyright 2018 WTOC. All rights reserved.