太子探花

Prince George’s Co. kids basketball team with 5 deaf players finishes with winning season while inspiring the community

The Cheverly Panthers kids basketball team reached their championship game as five of its players are deaf or hard of hearing. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)

It was a great season for the Cheverly Panthers. The kids basketball team, comprised of 8- and 9-year-olds, is unique in the league that plays at the Cheverly Boys and Girls Club in Prince George’s County, Maryland, as five of its players are deaf or hard of hearing.

The Panthers reached their highest level Friday, playing in a championship game. While they lost to the Cheverly Bruins 20-17, finishing the season in second place, they expressed pride in their achievements, respect for their coaches and teammates and looked forward to next season.

“You’re not going to win all of them. It’s a hard game. There’s some better people than you. You just got to accept that,” said Henry Congdon, 9, in a postgame interview.

The coaches pointed out that Congdon learned some sign language this past season to better communicate with his deaf teammates.

“You have to figure out your own way of communicating, or if you already know, you have to do that,” said Congdon.

The Panthers jumped to an early lead over the Bruins. But the Bruins fought back, taking the lead in the fourth period and then closing it out.

“When we were in the lead, I was so happy, but when they caught up I was sad. Then we lost, but I’m still proud of myself,” said Kevin Kivitis, 9.

“It was a tough one for us. And unfortunately, none of our team has ever been to a championship game before. And I think the pressure, the crowd got a little bit loud and I think that’s what threw us off a little bit. But the other team played an excellent game. We both brought our ‘A’ games today, and they just happened to be the better team today,” said head coach Brandon Patrick.

A key to the team’s success is its interpreter Tavon Simms, standing side by side the coaches using sign language to ensure that all the kids on the team know the plays, the strategy and the coach’s directions.

“I’ve been speaking signs my whole life, since I was a kid, with both my parents being deaf. It’s just talking for me, honestly, this is just talking. I’m talking with everybody. I like bridging the gap,” Simms said.

“I’ve had a lot of fun coaching the kids 鈥 at first I was here just to speak for the kids and the coach. But I got involved with the coaching and I started having fun teaching them things I know from back when I was a kid playing basketball. So I’ve really enjoyed it,” said Simms.

The gym was packed for the championship game and many came to see the Panthers 鈥 a team which has inspired the community.

“This is a wonderful team 鈥 they have a great time together. And they’ve had to learn to communicate with each other 鈥 they’ve learned a lot about each other,” said Prince George’s County Council member Jolene Ivey.

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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