As the ball left Michael Briggs’ hands and sailed through the net, the entire packed house at Dunn Gym erupted into cheers.
It didn’t matter that the junior varsity game between Andover High and archrival Central Catholic on Jan. 10 was well out of reach.
The gym was already stuffed with a sold-out crowd of more than 1,000 fans prepared to watch the varsity game when Briggs took the court in the closing moments of the JV game.
Briggs, a 16-year-old born with Down syndrome, took a pass and knocked down a short jumper
The shot sent the capacity crowd into hysterics. The Andover student section loudly chanted “Michael! Michael!” and fans of both teams rose to their feet and applauded as if he had just won a state championship. More than a few spectators had tears falling down their cheeks.
“It was unbelievable,” said his mother, Kim Briggs, her eyes misting with emotion.
“You are already so proud of what he did. But then the crowd reaction and (the Andover High student section) The Jungle chanting his name, it is just something you never imagine. You knew he had done something special. There is no stopping Michael.”
About the only one not celebrating was Michael. The Andover High sophomore got back on defense like any real basketball player would do.
“I still have goose bumps,” said his father, David Briggs, who coaches Michael’s Special Olympics team.
“This is something we never expected. Michael has scored in games before, but never in front of a packed house like that. I was so happy for him. It was really incredible.”
His family members weren’t the only ones touched.
“I know I saw a few tears in the stands,” Andover JV coach Alan Hibino said. “I was so proud to be his coach and the kids were proud to be his teammates. For the entire Andover community to support him like that was really special.”