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Blake Bjornson's Buzzer Beater

by Dan Gunderson

That video you just watched is of Blake Bjornson and he is from Grafton, N.D. As you can tell, he hits a shot at the end of a game that sends the crowd in hysterics. It isn't even a game winning shot for Blake. What it is is a testament to what sports should always be about.

Blake is a senior at Grafton High School and has Down Syndrome, but that hasn't stopped him from being an important part of the team. Blake takes part in practices and dresses for both the C-Squad and JV teams for the Spoilers. 

Blake's teammates treat him just like any other teammate. They make sure he is apart of everything they do from slowing down in a three-man-weave drill to make sure he can catch up to helping him tie his shoes so he can get on the court to play.

Head coach Riley Lillemoen saw how much basketball meant to Blake and wanted to reward him for his service to the team. His plan was to have Blake play in the varsity game on senior night on Monday, February 10. He told the team his plans for Blake as they approached senior night at Grafton.

"(The players) were all over having Blake taken part in senior night with them," said Coach Lillemoen in an email. "Blake is their biggest fan and the boys look out for Blake like he is family."

Grafton was scheduled to play Thompson High School on senior night and coach Lillemoen contacted Thompson's head coach Brandy George to let him in on his idea for Blake. George had no problem and was happy to be a part of it.

On game day, coach Lillemoen made sure to have Blake recognized prior to tip-off. 

"We actually introduced Blake as a starter," said Lillemoen. "He ran through the starting lineups which he was pretty jacked about along with the fans."

As the game progressed, Grafton was able to pull away enough to allow for Blake to come in with a couple minutes to go. Blake was able to get up a couple shots but nothing was falling and it looked as if points in a varsity game were going to escape him.

Then, a teammate of Blake's intervened.

"With about 14 seconds left, Thompson got a rebound and it looked as if Blake wouldn't get another chance," said coach Lillemoen. "Hunter Baldwin picked up a foul to stop the clock with 1.3 seconds left. At first, I couldn't believe he had just fouled someone with a second left and the game basically over."

Lillemoen's exasperation gave way to understanding when he figured out what Baldwin was doing.

"I quickly realized he was trying to get that clock stopped for one last possession." said Lillemoen. 

After a couple of Thompson makes, the Grafton inbounder took and rolled the ball all the way down to where Blake was standing on the other end. Blake picked it up, took a dribble and knocked in the jumper.

"The whole gym erupted and the boys from out bench stormed to court to celebrate with Blake," said Lillemoen. "It was one of the coolest things I've ever witnessed."

We have seen moments like these happen before but they never get old. In an age where bullying seems to creep into even the highest level of athletic competition, the Grafton basketball team make sure Blake is treated as just another basketball player.

While coaches are being asked to resign or being told their contracts won't be renewed because they are either too harsh or too demanding on the student/athlete, Blake has come around to show us why we revere sports so much.

It isn't for the winning or the glory or to make it to the next level. It is someone, anyone, can have a chance to feel as if they have accomplished something spectacular.

Coach Lillemoen summed it up nicely. "It's one of those moments that most will remember forever."

You can follow Daniel "Pinto" Gunderson on Twitter at @pintoKFGO or friend him on Facebook. You can hear him on his weekly podcast show on kfgo.com, 740thefan.com or on iTunes called “The Pinto and White Shadow Show.” Pinto is a radio producer within the Midwest Communications-Fargo company.