Senior Night is always a cherished occasion for high school athletes and their families, typically the last game of their final season in played in front of a home crowd.
That certainly was the case on Tuesday night as the Brandywine Bulldogs took to the hardwood against Archmere Academy, and veteran players were recognized for their accomplishments as proud parents stood by. But the Brandywine-Archmere varsity boys basketball game had another special element this year: Senior Matthew Lavelle, Brandywine’s basketball team manager for all four years of high school was a surprise member of the Bulldog’s starting five lineup.
Having your team manager step into the first string for the final home game of the season is pretty rare, but in this case, Matthew, who has intellectual and physical disabilities, was ready to go.
His father, former state senator Greg Lavelle, said Matthew has worked hard both on his basketball acumen but also his role as manager.
“Matthew worked his way up from JV to varsity and he regularly attended practices and games. He takes it very seriously and often travels on the bus and charges out of the locker room with the team and of course sits on the bench during the games,” said Lavelle.
“He’s honed his basketball skills over the years as a Bulldog and at St. Mary Magdalen’s. He also plays Delaware Special Olympic basketball. He really loves the sport,” said Lavelle.
Officials put two minutes on the clock before the game and Matthew took to the court with his teammates for the opening tipoff. The ball bounced to the Bulldogs and Matthew quickly gained possession, driving to the hoop, snagging his own rebound and scoring the first bucket of the game. That was followed by a steal on the defensive end of the court and another two-point layup off the glass by Matthew. Finally, Matthew closed out the game with a deft buzzer beater that was all net.
All in all, an extraordinary first – and final – varsity basketball performance in front of cheering fans, a wonderful capstone to a memorable high school career.
(Archmere went on to defeat Brandywine 50-38.)