Dante Agnes, No. 42, takes a 3-point shot during the KCC vs. May-Port CG game on Dec. 17.
By Anna Jauhola
With 8 seconds left in the Dec. 17 Bearcats basketball game, fans from both Kittson County Central and May-Port CG lept from their seats and cheered as the ball swished through the net.
May-Port CG’s Dante Agnes made the 3-pointer.
Thirty-two seconds earlier, Agnes’ coach, Adam Edwards, called a timeout. The May-Port CG Patriots were down by several points in the non-conference matchup against Kittson County Central.
“I could see Dante getting antsy,” Edwards said. “I stood by him with three minutes to go. I looked down at him and said, ‘Are you ready to go in?’ He ripped off his shirt and ran to the desk.”
Agnes has Down syndrome, but that does not define him. He has been playing basketball for years and has been on the team all four years of high school. He conditions with them, practices with them and cheers them on.
“He is 100 percent invested in the program,” Edwards said.
Although Agnes does not play every game, Edwards looks for opportunities – like the Dec. 17 game in Lancaster – for him to get court time.
Edwards told his team to get the ball to Agnes for a shot, and the KCC coaches overheard the conversation.
“Our coaches said go out and do the play, but make sure if it goes to (Agnes) that he has the chance to make the shot,” said Jim Scalese, Lancaster activities director.
When the time came, Patriots team members passed the ball to Agnes who shot from the 3-point line and missed. They rebounded and got the ball back to Agnes, who again shot and missed.
Then the Bearcats rebounded the ball and passed it straight to Agnes who, in two more shots, made the last basket of the game.
Agnes’ face was priceless as his team and the Bearcats, as well as all the crowd, jumped, clapped and cheered for him. Scalese said he looked like he’d won the championship.
“Just the fact that both sides were willing to make this kid’s day, that was pretty awesome,” Scalese said. “He drained it and the whole place erupted. Everyone was so stoked that he made it.”
May-Port CG’s Activities Director Eric Nygard said he wasn’t surprised by his students’ actions, but was impressed by both communities rallying and their excitement for Agnes’ shot.
“It was very heartwarming for me to see,” Nygard said of watching a video of Agnes’ shot that Scalese posted to Facebook.
Agnes’ sister, Samantha DeLong, attended the game and said it was an exciting event.
Typically, Agnes’ parents also attend games but didn’t make the drive to Lancaster due to last-minute Christmas preparations.
“I sent Mom a video of the shot and she said, ‘Of course we don’t go to the game he gets a shot,’” DeLong said. “But it’s still really exciting for everybody.”
This was not Agnes’ first basket of his career, but it’s the first for this year.
“We lost on the scoreboard, but the guys were super pumped for Dante after that,” Edwards said. “There were high-fives after the game in the locker room. Just the way he made that basket, the 3-point shot.”
Edwards credits the excitement and atmosphere of the Dec. 17 game for giving his team an enthusiasm and drive to move ahead in their regular season. The team beat Finley-Sharon-Hope-Page on Dec. 18 for the team’s first conference win of the season, bringing their record to 1-4.
“When the KCC team decided to do that, it was a great show of sportsmanship,” Edwards said.
“It was a really great moment to see these 14 to 18-year-old young men putting Dante first on both sides of the board and they played respectfully and appropriately. I have a lot of respect for that program now to do that. I want to give my personal thanks to KCC for doing something like that. It’s fantastic.”