MARIEMONT, Ohio -- Scott Holland needed no introduction on Senior Night at the Mariemont High School gymnasium.
Why would he?
It seems everyone in the school district knows the warm-hearted senior student-manager who brings smiles to the community.
“God has given him a talent to make people happy,” Mariemont assistant basketball coach Scott Vonderhaar said.
Friday night was sheer euphoria for Scott and his family and friends.
The season’s final home game for the Mariemont boys’ basketball team was an opportunity for Holland, who has Down syndrome, to showcase his basketball skills.
It was his time to gallop through the line of teammates and cheerleaders and jump joyously into the arms of another teammate as the starting lineup was announced.
“It got so loud you could hardly even hear his name being called because everyone was so excited to see him running out on the court,” Mariemont senior guard Andrew Sizer said.
Holland, 19, entered center court with the confidence of an NBA center for the opening tip. He jumped in place more than a half-dozen times in preparation.
When he won the tip his poise on the opening possession nearly allowed him to connect on a 3-pointer from the right elbow that would’ve brought down the house.
Instead he swished a 15-footer a short time later and was promptly swarmed by his teammates. No one cared that the actual game hadn’t started yet.
“I coached Woodward to a state title and have coached in some big games,” Mariemont head coach Jim Leon said. “To see a kid like Scott enjoy this moment -- it’s at the top of the list, no doubt.”
Chants of ‘MVP’ resonated throughout the gym. Photos and video clips captured the moment.
starting off senior night right with a bucket by the GOAT!!! pic.twitter.com/2p6wHV6G1b
— Mariemont Spirit (@MariemontSpirit) February 11, 2017
“It was a pretty cool moment and everybody went nuts and ran onto the court,” said senior football player Joe Veeneman, who was in the student section. “Everybody went out and the team gave him a hug. It was pretty awesome.”
Spectators stood and cheered. The Finneytown players and coaches enthusiastically did the same. It was as if LeBron made a game-winning shot in Game 7.
“I just told our kids he is somebody’s son,” said Finneytown coach Kimar Morris, who admitted shedding tears Friday.
“Just imagine what this moment is like for his family. We were honored to be a part of it.”
Holland has been a basketball manager the past two seasons. He’s been with the football team as a manager the past four.
But, it’s his positive impact on others off in every area of life that has made the most impact.
“I think it’s just the way that he carries himself,” Sizer said. “He’ll be walking through the hallways and if you are not saying hi to him he’ll being saying hi to you. He always has a smile on his face.”
‘Diehard Mariemont guy’
Mariemont football coach Kurry Commins teaches social studies near Holland’s class. He’s seen the smile and the enthusiasm in school.
Holland helped the football team in practice with various duties this past season. He was reliable and committed to the program.
“It wasn’t so much the football program helping Scott as much as Scott helping the football program,” Commins said.
Each September, the football team accompanies Holland and his family for the annual Buddy Walk, an event at Sawyer Point that benefits the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati.
The team would take a group photo. There were genuine smiles gathered around a true friend.
“His spirit, energy and passion and love of Mariemont -- he is so contagious,” Commins said.
Venneman, a lineman who led the MVP chants Friday night, said Holland has always been there for the teams he’s helped.
He keeps things light and inspires those around him. Holland was the team’s No. 1 supporter. He’d offer encouraging words. He’d throw his hat if needed.
“The guy bleeds blue and yellow,” Veeneman said. “He’s a diehard Mariemont guy. There is not one person in the community that wouldn’t give it their all for Scott.”
The plan for weeks was for Holland to dress on varsity night. Leon, Vonderhaar and Athletic Director Tom Nerl helped coordinate the plan. Everyone wanted this to be a very special Senior Night.
Holland’s parents, Bryan and Julie, were on board.
“Everybody knows Scott at Mariemont,” Bryan said. “From the seniors all the way down the elementary school kids.”
Julie is well aware of her son’s impact on the program. She couldn’t wait for Friday night. She couldn't hold back the tears in the gym.
“He is so outgoing and they embrace him,” Julie said. “He helps other people. Like coach Scott says on the team, ‘he brightens my day.’”
The coaches told Scott Holland about Senior Night after the Feb. 7 win at Reading. Scott grinned widely upon hearing the news while sitting in the locker room with his teammates.
The players took some extra time after practice to help Holland with his shooting prior to Friday.
When the night arrived, Holland was understandably a bit nervous. The emotion was evident in warm-ups. He was consistently practicing 3-pointers during the pregame.
Holland, who also plays basketball for Swish Spirit during the school year, was ready. He seized the opportunity.
And although he was on the floor for less a minute Friday night, he made a no-doubt swish. His teammates and coaches couldn't be more proud. Not only for the shot but for the man Holland is each and every day.
“I am not sure I can put it into words for you,” Vonderhaar said. “It’s just one of those moments that you hope all kids get something from it. I will never forget it -- I will tell you that.”
Scott Holland soaked in every moment. He spoke to the crowd in a Senior Night ceremony after the game. More crowd chants ensued.
“It was very cool,” Scott Holland said. “There are a lot of good friendships.”