HIT Turns 52, Holds First HIT Wheelchair Game

The Hillcrest Invitational Tournament (HIT) started over fifty years ago. While the Minnesota State High School League offered a tournament style offering for public schools, private schools were not eligible to participate in the high school league until 1974. Hillcrest turned to churches, asking church teams to venture to Fergus Falls to compete against the Hillcrest basketball teams.

In the fifty-second year of the tournament Hillcrest welcomed 64 teams this year. It is common for teams as far away as New Jersey to travel to the tournament. This year the tournament rosters held over 250 participants that used seven gyms around the Fergus Falls community in the two day tournament. 

Danny Isaac has enjoyed the tournament since his family moved to Hillcrest over a decade ago. Danny grew up watching his brothers play in the tournament, coaching friends in their games from his wheelchair. A pediatric disorder has kept Danny's legs in braces since before his first birthday. Growing up in an athletic family, Danny talks sports and plays in wheelchair leagues. Danny is a youth league sled hockey champion.

Danny is a senior at Hillcrest, and is looking forward to college where he will study engineering. He has researched the options available to him, taking special note of which schools can accommodate his wheelchair and provide good access to labs where he will do his research in his later years at college. His recent mission trip to the Dominican Republic is a case-in-point that there is little that will keep Danny from participating with his friends in the normal day-to-day high school activities at Hillcrest. When the HIT came on the calendar this year Danny was approached by tournament organizers to schedule a wheelchair game so he could join his friends on the court as a participating member of the tournament.

Aggressive-looking wheel chairs for athletics were donated by Hope Inc., a non-profit organization that provides athletic opportunities for students with physical disabilities that is located in Moorhead, MN. The wheelchairs were filled with Danny's best friends from school. Friends who have watched him play sled hockey and spent countless hours swimming and biking with him around Fergus Falls. Their team adopted the name "Danny's Supermen", and wore navy colored t-shirts with the superman insignia on the front. The team that opposed Danny was made of some of the men and women who have mentored Danny during his time at Hillcrest. The Hillcrest teachers wore t-shirts that read "Jeff's Everyday Guys", referring to Jeff Isaac, Danny's father. Jeff and Danny squared off before the final championship game of the tournament.

Throughout the game it was clear that Danny had an advantage on everyone on the court. He was quick in maneuvering around defenders, dribbling as he wove to the basket to toss underhand layups. His friends employed a passing strategy, working the ball up the sidelines through team work, often finding Danny or Hillcrest varsity basketball players Gabe Preston and Sam Ihrke. Zak Zwiers was under the hoop to grab rebounds and toss up shots. The Hillcrest faculty couldn't keep up to the team of friends Danny had assembled. 

On a few occasions the referees stepped in to help the faculty, knocking balls there way and pushing a few members in their wheel chair on fast breaks. Despite their efforts, the faculty only made two baskets, a layup by Jeff Isaac and a three-pointer by art teacher Gaylen Peterson. 

Danny's team, on the other hand, put on a basketball clinic for their teachers. Danny was the leading stat leader, with four of the team's 14 points and three assists.

The wheelchair Basketball game was the 91st basketball game scheduled for the weekend. In fifty years of running the tournament Hillcrest continues to see the event as one of many times for family and friends to gather in support of Hillcrest Academy.