• HS senior with Down syndrome starts in varsity girl's basketball game

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    Franklin High is known for its special education and inclusion programs, and on Friday night the school helped mark the life one of their own.

    Taylor Padula, who has Down syndrome, started for the first time in a girl's varsity basketball game.

    The high school senior has never let any obstacle get in the way of her high school experience and showed how her passion for the sport moves her.

    Padula's captains and best friends asked the coach to put her in and share in their senior night.

    "I'm so proud," said Taylor. "They are my best friends and my teammates."

    She's the Franklin girls' varsity basketball team manager, and for the first time in four years, she started Friday night's game against Taunton.

    "Definitely a big deal, I’ve been looking forward to this night all season," said Bea Bndhus, the team captain.

    Sure enough, with a little planning and a lot of good sportsmanship, Padula, wearing jersey number 5, had the night of her life.

    "Taylor’s a very serious basketball kid, don’t let her smile fool you," said John Leighton, the team's coach. "She’s a cold-hearted killer on the court. She’s out to score."

    Her family, watching from the stands, cheered Padula on with proud smiles on their faces.

    "She pretty much died and went to heaven tonight, yeah, she did," said Michael Padula, Taylor's father.

    "It was so special, something that I’ve waited for since the day that she was born," said Kelley Padula, Taylor's mother.

    To make the night even more memorable, her sister Stefany, a freshman who plays in the junior varsity girl's basketball team, pulled up to play along Taylor.

    "Unforgettable, the best, the best, amazing," said Kelley.

    With Taylor's help cheering from the bench and scoring on the court, the Franklin girls' team clinched the title.

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