Avery O'Neal makes the most of special moment in North Zulch

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NORTH ZULCH, Texas (KBTX) -- The excitement started building about a week ago when Avery O'Neal, who has down syndrome, started practicing with her 7th grade friends on the basketball team at North Zulch Junior High.

"She's always referred to them as her teammates, her friends," says Avery's father Jim. "They let her come practice on and off during PE. She's always thought of them as her teammates. Last week they started letting her come practice with them and once it was planned it was a pretty neat deal. She was really excited."

And the excitement carried over to game day. In the season finale, Avery got to suit out and sit on the bench with her teammates while her family filled in the seats at the high school gym.

After North Zulch grinded out an 11-7 victory the real fun started, as a couple minutes were put on the clock to let Avery do her thing.

Avery sank a shot, played some defense, and then brought the crowd to its feet by getting another bucket at the buzzer.

"Oh that was awesome," said her teammate Allison Poe.

"It was awesome to know that none of us can make a buzzer beater and she comes out here and does a buzzer beater," added another teammate, Gillian Kizer.

Jim O'Neal was glad to see Avery get a chance to play after spending so much time watching her older brother James, who plays baseball for Allen Community College in Iola, Kansas, and her older sister Connor, who played softball for Mary Hardin-Baylor, in action.

"For us, she's followed her brother and sister around for years going to baseball and softball, football games and coming watching games I've been coaching in and it's awesome just that she gets her moment in the sun. That's the most important thing. This was about her and she got to go play."

Kizer added, "It was amazing. She's one of the schools most treasured girls. It's really great."

"I can't thank both the coaches at North Zulch and Iola enough for letting her have the opportunity to do that. Both groups of kids being behind it. It was really special, it was pretty neat," said Jim.

Pretty neat indeed. Who says junior high girls are the worst?