Tears of joy and tears of defeat at the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in Louisville, Ky.
JUNIOR NIT DIVISON – Mary Free Bed’s Defense Clamps Down
The No. 17 seed Mary Free Bed Junior Pacers A team’s go-to guy took over both halves and their defense provided a big second-half surge.
Mary Free Bed’s Gabe DenBraber finished with a double-double with game-highs of 28 points and 20 rebounds as the Junior Pacers defeated the No. 22 seed Motor City Wheelz 43-31 in the Junior NIT Division National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament’s championship game at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky.
Named the Junior NIT title game’s Most Valuable Player, DenBraber totaled 16 points and 12 rebounds in the first half and 12 points and 14 rebounds in the second half to help lift the team on offense.
But the decisive factor was an early second-half scoring run. Leading 24-18, Mary Free Bed held Motor City scoreless for a 7-minute and 18-second span, going on a 10-0 run and increasing its lead to 34-18 with less than 12 minutes to play.
Mary Free Bed led 43-24 with 6:55 left before Motor City closed the game on a 7-0 run.
Coleton Butterworth added eight points and two rebounds for Mary Free Bed, while William Oberg (four points, three rebounds) and David Heynen (three points, three rebounds) also scored for the Junior Pacers.
Tae Veon Selby led Motor City with 13 points and added four rebounds, while Jacob Allie posted a double-double with 11 points and 19 rebounds. Dylan Zander (four points, 12 rebounds) and Jonathan Suskiewicz (four points, five rebounds) also scored for the Wheelz.
Motor City had advanced to the final after recording two straight upsets. The Wheelz defeated the No. 18-seeded Mad City Badgers 32-27 in Saturday’s semifinals and the No. 19-seeded Denver Junior Rolling Nuggets 47-42 in Friday’s second round. They took down No. 27 seed ATX 49-14 in Friday’s first round.
Mary Free Bed advanced to the finals after earning victories over the No. 32 seed MS Wheelcats (49-26 in the first round), the No. 25 seed Cincinnati Dragons (53-44 in Saturday’s second round) and then the No. 20 seed Synergy Junior Bulls (67-56) in Saturday’s semifinals.
JUNIOR PREP DIVISION – Charlotte Rallies For Title
Thanks to a long second-half run, the No. 3-seeded Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets Purple team continued their upset special all the way to a National Wheelchair Basketball Division Tournament title. And they knocked out the No. 1 seed to complete the final chapter.
Championship game Most Valuable Player Preston Howell IV scored a game-high 23 points to help lead Charlotte to a 32-26 come-from-behind victory over the No. 1 seed Minnesota Rolling Rowdies to earn the Junior Prep Division title at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky., on Sunday afternoon.
Trailing 20-14 with 5:25 left in the third quarter, Charlotte closed the game on an 18-6 run. Howell scored nine of those 18 points, while Sadie Absher had four, Landon Benton had three and Julian Rodriguez added two.
The Rollin’ Hornets Purple team held Minnesota to just six points in the third quarter and only four in the fourth. Leading just 26-24 with 6:29 remaining, Charlotte scored six straight points – four by Landon and two from Benton – to put the game out of reach.
Benton finished with seven points and five rebounds. Rodriguez ended with four points and two rebounds. And Absher totaled her four points and had a rebound.
Charlotte knocked out the top two seeds in the semifinals and title game to earn the title. The Rollin’ Hornets Purple knocked off the No. 2-seeded LWSRA Hawks 24-17 in the semifinals and earlier defeated the No. 6 seed OKC Wheels of Thunder 41-18 and the No. 14 seed Cincinnati Dragons 44-12 in the tournament’s first two rounds Friday.
Nick Deyo led Minnesota with 10 points and two rebounds, while Aidan Gravelle had eight points and two rebounds. David Petit (four points, two rebounds), Ben Covington (two points, three rebounds) and Jack Binsfeld (two points, two rebounds) also scored for Minnesota.
Minnesota advanced to the title game after holding on for a 24-21 over the No. 4 seed Lakeshore Sharks in Saturday’s semifinals. Minnesota earned wins over the No. 16 seed Chicago Skyhawks (41-14) and No. 9 seed BlazeSports Junior Hawks (34-11) in Friday’s first two rounds.
JUNIOR VARSITY DIVISION
The TIRR Memorial Hermann Houston Junior Hotwheels completed their undefeated season and captured the Junior Varsity Division National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament title Sunday afternoon.
Some clutch key rebounds and buckets by Garrett Castillo, hot shooting from Peter Berry and his game-high 29 points and clutch free throws from Dustin Stallberg lifted the No. 1 seed Hotwheels to a 61-56 victory over the No. 2 seed BlazeSports Atlanta Junior Wheelchair Hawks in the Junior Varsity Division championship game at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.
It was tight late.
Leading 56-54 with 2:03 remaining, the Hotwheels needed all three players down the stretch. Castillo, who recorded a double-double with 16 points and 18 rebounds, scored on a putback of Berry’s missed layup to give TIRR a 58-54 lead with 1:41 left.
BlazeSports’ Eric Francis cut the deficit down to 58-56 with 1:28 to go after a basket. Then, Berry hit one of two free throws with 29 seconds left to put TIRR up 59-56. Francis had a chance to tie the game but missed a 3-pointer with 7 seconds remaining and Stallberg (eight points, five rebounds) closed the win out, hitting two of two free throws for the final margin.
Carrington Marendes added eight points and two rebounds for TIRR Memorial.
Francis led BlazeSports with 14 points and added five rebounds, while Kalen Reese (12 points, nine rebounds) and Samuel Armas (11 points, 16 rebounds) also reached double figures in scoring.
Jordan Kozloski added nine points and eight rebounds for the Junior Wheelchair Hawks. Collin Lancaster had eight points and one rebound. And Bailey Moody scored two points and had a rebound.
TIRR Memorial Hermann defeated the No. 4 seed WASA Junior Bucks 74-52 in Saturday’s semifinals to advance to the final. The Junior Hotwheels also beat the No. 16 seed Sportable Spokes (63-40) and No. 8 seed Peoria Wildcats (64-43) in Friday’s first and second rounds.
BlazeSports reached the final after defeating the No. 3 seed RHI Racers 56-47 in Saturday’s semifinals. The Junior Wheelchair Hawks knocked off the No. 7 seed Utah Rush (57-37) and No. 15 seed Rancho Renegades (64-34) on Friday.