Three-times a charm could be the new motto for the Chicago Skyhawks as they secured its first Junior Prep National Title at the 68th National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament presented by ABC Medical. The Kentucky Exposition Center erupted as the Skyhawks knocked off the three-time defending National Champion BlazeSports Junior Hawks, 39-31. This was the third consecutive year where both teams squared off with each other for the prestigious championship.
The Skyhawks Ajani Upton led the charge for the Skyhawks with 21 points for the game. Ixhelt Gonzalez put up 10 in the win. The Skyhawks scored often and even had a stingier defense for a 18-2 first-quarter lead. The Atlanta based BlazeSports team mounted a come back over in the second and third quarters, outscoring Chicago 21-10, cutting its deficit to 28-23 after three quarters. In the closing stanza, the tandem of Upton and Gonzalez scored a combined 11 points to win their first National title.
Championship Saturday provided a boisterous atmosphere for the afternoon slate of games for the Junior Varsity and Championship divisions. The Courage Kenny Minnesota Timberwolves took home its second National Title in the last three years, while the Championship Division crowned Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks for its 14th National title.
The Timberwolves, who were down by eight points at the half, 28-20, relied on the shooting prowess of Holden Kowalke and Grady Gordon who each scored 18 points in their victory over the Houston TIRR Hotwheels, 53-50. The Timberwolves found a pace in the second half by putting up 33 points where Kowalke scored 12 of his 18 points.
The Hotwheels were led by a trio of athletes that found double digits. Abraham Hausman-Weiss scored 23, with Peter Berry adding 16, and Carrington Marendes putting up 10.
The Championship Division National Championship was a see-saw battle between the Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks and the Milwaukee Wheelchair Bucks. The rosters for both teams featured eight athletes who have represented the United States at the Paralympic Games, and several 2016 U.S. Paralympic hopefuls.
In the first half, the game had seven ties through the first seven minutes, until the Dallas Mavericks went ahead with Bobbie Nickleberry at 8:43 of the first half. The Bucks pulled ahead at the 9:14 mark of the first half off of 2012 U.S. Paralympic bronze medalist and 2016 hopeful Nate Hinze’s two-pointer, 18-17, and kept that lead until the final 2:45 when the Mavs returned to the top with another Nickleberry basket, for a 33-30 half-time advantage.
The second half was much like the first. Nickleberry and Hinze were shooting sensations for their respective squads. The Mavericks were able to gain the final lead with 51 clicks remaining in the second half for their one-point win, 55-54.
Hinze was the top scorer of both teams with 32 points, while Nickleberry finished with 31 points. The other contributors for the Mavericks was three-time U.S. Paralympian Jason Nelms with 8, and prior National Team member Jermell Pennie with 6. The Bucks scattered their point between three women Paralympians: United States Desiree Miller(United States in 2012), Becca Murray (2008 gold/2012), and Team Germany’s 2012 gold medalist Mareike Miller.
The Richmond Sportable Spokes came out firing in the Junior National Invitational Tournament final. The Sportable Spokes took a commanding 26-10 half-time lead over the Nebraska Red Dawgs and never looked back in capturing the title, 51-44. Ignacio Ortega Lafuente of the Spokes was the leading scorer with 22 points, while Colin Egan put up 10 points in their effort. The Red Dawgs were led by Maya Campbell’s 18 points and Alonte Davis’ 14 points. The Red Dawgs were the No. 7 seed of the tournament.
The Division III National Championship will be played on Sunday at 10 a.m. EDST and will feature TIRR Hotwheels and the Ft. Lauderdale Sharks.
The 2016 NWBT is the largest ever with 88 teams and 976 athletes that featured a total of 176 games on 12 courts. The NWBT is a five-division event spanning four age groups – Junior Prep, Junior NIT, Junior Varsity, Division III and Championship.
2016 National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament presented by ABC Medical
At Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky., April 7-10
Junior NIT – 1st Richmond Sportable Spokes def. Nebraska Red Dawgs, 51-34; 3rd Denver Junior Rolling Nuggets def. BORP Junior Road Warriors, 52-50; 5th Katie’s Komets def. Lakeshore Lakers, 34-26; 7th Peoria Wildcats def. Synergy Bulls, 34-18
Junior Prep – 1st Chicago Skyhawks def. BlazeSports Junior Hawks, 39-31; 3rd Milwaukee Junior Bucks def. Junior Minutemen, 34-23; 5th Charlotte Rollin Hornets def. Oklahoma Blaze, 38-36; 7th Courage Kenny Minnesota Rowdies, 31-28
Junior Varsity – 1st Courage Kenny Minn. Junior Rolling Timberwolves def. Houston TIRR Hotwheels, 53-50; 3rd Atlanta BlazeSports Hawks def. Dallas Mavericks, 49-48; 5th Phoenix Banner Suns def. Utah Rush, 63-49; 7th Milwaukee Junior Bucks def. Rancho Renegades, 48-32
Championship Division – 1st Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks def. Milwaukee Wheelchair Bucks, 55-54; 3rd New York Rollin’ Knicks def. Rogue Valley Scorpions, 55-50; 5th Bay City Thunder def. University of Arizona, 69-61; 7th Austin Rec’ers def. San Diego Wolfpack, 57-56