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Matthew Sapolin Memorial Wheelchair Basketball Tournament
October 5–6, 2013
By Chris Cirillo
On October 5–6, the Matthew Sapolin Memorial Wheelchair Basketball Tournament returned to Manhattan College in the Bronx for two days of action-packed games. The third time was the charm for the NEPVA Celtics as they defeated the Bulova Stetson Nets by a score of 45-29 to secure a championship that had eluded them the past two years.
The Celtics and the Bulova Stetson Nets both established dominance early in the tournament as they went undefeated in Saturday’s games and were consequently rewarded first-round byes into Sunday’s semifinal games. During the quarterfinal round, the Nassau Kings showed that they were still a force to be reckoned with as they gave up only two points in the entire second half and handily defeated the Brooklyn Nets by a score of 53-11. The Connecticut Spokebenders also advanced to the semifinals as a result of a forfeit by the shorthanded Western NY Wheels.
The action really started to heat up in the semifinals as the Spokebenders took on the Celtics. The Spokebenders struggled to get anything going in the first half as they netted only two baskets. Despite a strong second half by the Spokebenders, the Celtics were able to hold off a comeback, and they advanced to the championship game with a 38-23 win. In the other semifinal matchup, the Nassau Kings saw their streak of back-to-back championships come to an end when they lost to the Bulova Nets by a score of 44-70, despite strong showings from John Torres and Roger Shelton, who combined for 28 points.
In the championship matchup, the Celtics opened up the game with an 18-3 run, and they never looked back as the Nets never got within 11 points for the rest of the game. Tournament MVP Omar Benitez, who finished as the tournament’s highest scorer, flirted with a triple-double in the championship game. Benitez’s 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists included a nifty no-look pass to teammate Megan Anderson, who finished with the layup in the second half. Anderson returned the favor the very next offensive possession when she threw a full-court pass to a leaking Benitez, who finished on the fast break and all but sealed the deal, giving the Celtics a 39-21 lead. The Celtics were able to show off a full range of options as Bill Hill finished with 10 points, Joe Lamar added six points and five rebounds, and Anderson finished with four points, two rebounds and an assist. Despite strong individual performances by Paul Ward (14 points and eight rebounds) and Steve Yedlock (seven points and seven rebounds), the Bulova Nets couldn’t keep up with the Celtics, who won by a final score of 45-29.
Yedlock was named to the All-Tournament Team along with Linas Pagano from the Connecticut Spokebenders and Mike Kelly from the Nassau Kings.