Like senior basketball players across the country, Murissa Horton of Dawson High School in Welch, Texas, was excited about playing her final season.
Horton never dreamed, however, that she would be playing on a co-ed team that is competing against boys teams.
But at Dawson High School in west Texas, which is about an hour from the New Mexico border, the boys and girls teams entered the season with small rosters. Then disaster struck. According to KCBD-TV, two of the seven boys players moved and two of the six girls players were injured.
So, with the blessing of the organization that oversees high school sports in Texas (the University Interscholastic League), the teams combined forces last month to play the boys schedule.
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“It’s like I tell the girls, every day we get to play basketball is a good day,” girls coach Tonja Edens told KCBD. “They were just wanting to play basketball, so the easiest and best decision was to combine and all go at it together.”
Edens is sharing coaching duties with boys’ coach Ed Robison. She told the Associated Press that initially there was some concern about the girls’ safety because of the size and strength of the boys.
But after the coaches explained the possible risks, the girls said they wanted to play.
“I never, ever thought that my senior season would come down to the point where I didn’t have enough girls in my athletic program to play with,” Horton said in the video above. “So to be able to figure out a solution, to combine teams, to play with people who accept each other, I just have so much more gratitude for the situation, for the sport and for my final year, my senior season. I’m just way more thankful for it than I think I can put into words.”
In a Facebook Live interview with KCBD, Robison said the girls and boys teams both made the playoffs last season. However, the AP story said the team has struggled, although it won its first game by the final score of 51-21.
Opposing teams are not taking Dawson lightly.
“I told my team you’ve got to play against them just like they’re boys because we’re playing a boys schedule,” Sands High School coach Billy Grumbles told the AP. “You’re not playing against girls. You’ve got to take them seriously. In this situation it doesn’t matter what gender they are, you have to play like it’s just another high school game.”
After Sands beat Dawson, Grumbles told the AP he was impressed with Horton.
“That Horton girl can play,” Grumbles said, “I would take her anytime.”