Dragons Complete Undefeated Season, Win NWBA Junior Varsity Division National Title
A fiery speech right before overtime helped energize Cincinnati Dragons players. And they finished off their perfect season.
The No. 1-seeded Dragons got double-doubles from Gabe Taylor and Alex Hilgeford, and Jamie Stanford hit two big late-game shots to lift Cincinnati to a 55-50 overtime victory over the No. 2 seed BlazeSports Junior Hawks (Red) in Sunday’s National Wheelchair Basketball Association Toyota Junior Varsity Division National Championship game at Wichita Hoops in Wichita, Kan.
After missing two shots to win the game in regulation, Taylor says Cincinnati coach Jacob Counts was emphatic afterward.
“Coach got us fired up during the huddle in between the fourth quarter and overtime, telling us the game plan — the way he said it got us all fired up. [He said it] very aggressively,” Taylor says.
The Dragons responded right away in the extra period. Kerwin Haake hit a deep 3-pointer, while Taylor and Stanford each hit baskets to put the Dragons up 53-46 with 3:34 left in overtime.
BlazeSports rallied late. The Junior Hawks (Red) scored four straight points, cutting the lead to 53-50 after Mason McCartney’s basket with 1:25 left. But Stanford hit another basket with 28 seconds left and the Dragons’ defense held on from there.
Cincinnati finished the season 28-0 overall, including 4-0 in the national tournament. The Dragons rolled to a 74-51 first-round victory over the No. 16 seed Bennett Blazers, defeated the No. 8 seed RHI Racers, 72-28, in the quarterfinals and the No. 4 seed Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets, 53-45, in the semifinals to reach the championship.
Taylor scored a game-high 21 points and added 12 rebounds, while Hilgeford added 13 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Both were named to the Varsity Division’s All-Tournament First Team. Taylor was named the championship’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), while Hilgeford was named the tournament MVP. Stanford scored six points and had nine rebounds, while Merko Krodel had two points and six rebounds.
“It feels great. I was not expecting it in any way, shape or form,” Taylor says. “’Cause I didn’t think we had enough practice in. Our conditioning, we’ve been doing conditioning forever and that came out, showed up.”
Taevan Grant led BlazeSports (3-1 in tournament play) with 20 points and had six rebounds. Collin Lancaster scored 12 points and had six rebounds. Eric Francis scored eight points and added 12 rebounds. Samantha Fraser, who was named the All-Tournament Female MVP, scored four points and had two rebounds, while McCartney (four points, five rebounds) and Seth Earley (two points, six rebounds) also contributed.
A better team attitude help the No. 5 seed Lakeshore Sharks capture the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) Toyota Junior Prep Division National Championship.
Jackson Horne totaled team-highs of 17 points and six rebounds, and Lakeshore withstood a late rally for a 38-28 win over the No. 2 seed WASA (Milwaukee) Junior Bucks at Wichita Hoops in Wichita, Kan., for the title.
Horne earned the championship game’s Most Valuable Player honors, while teammate Jakarius Kemp (seven points and two rebounds) earned the All-Tournament Most Valuable Player award.
Lakeshore (4-0 in tournament play) knocked off No. 4 seed Dallas, 34-24, in the first round, then rolled past the No. 1 seed Kansas City Kings, 51-12, in the quarterfinals. The Sharks defeated the Bucks, 40-26, in the semifinals, and met them again in the finals after the Bucks (3-2) beat the No. 3 seed New York Rollin’ Fury in the consolation bracket finals game.
“It was a very good attitude today. The past couple days we’ve been doubtful, especially during Dallas, because I think we were scared at first because of how big they were. And then after that, we were picking it up and we actually played them full court,” Horne says.
Leading 9-6 with 6:20 left in the second quarter, Lakeshore went on a 9-2 run to close out the period, with Horne scoring seven of the team’s points during it to take an 18-8 lead at halftime.
Additionally for the Sharks, Seth Tippins finished with eight points and four rebounds, and Zane Goodwin scored six points.
WASA’s Andrew Beutel led all scorers with 18 points and added nine rebounds. Catherine Reddin (six points, one rebound), Taylor Post (two points, two rebounds), Kai Ryan (two points, four rebounds) and Noah Gorecki (two rebounds) also contributed for the Bucks.
Goodwin, Beutel, Horne and Kemp were named to the All-Tournament team.
“It was amazing,” Horne says. “It took a lot more effort to get here but it was still worth it. It was definitely worth it.”
JUNIOR NIT DIVISION
Somehow, the Mississippi Wheelcats managed to make it though the long novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and bring home a title Sunday morning.
Led by John Davis’ 19 points and 19 rebounds, the No. 1-seeded Wheelcats led nearly wire to wire in a 34-22 victory over the No. 2 seed Music City Thunder to capture the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s Toyota Junior National Invitation Tournament (NIT) Division title at Wichita Hoops in Wichita, Kan.
Tied at 6 with 10 minutes and 30 seconds left in the first half, Mississippi (3-1 in tournament play) went on a 13-2 run to close out the period and led 19-8 at halftime. Davis scored six points, while Addison Bennett added four, Dylan Bowar had two and Phillip Lindsay had one.
Bennett finished with eight points and six rebounds, while Lindsay (three points, six rebounds), Joel Burns (two points, six rebounds and Bowar (two points, five rebounds) also contributed.
Although the Wheelcats lost to the Dallas Junior Mavs, 37-26, in a Junior Varsity Division tournament play-in game Thursday, the team recovered to win the three-team NIT Tournament — defeating the OKC Wheels of Thunder (44-15) and Music City Thunder (47-14) in two Saturday seeding games, and then knocking off the Music City Thunder again for the title.
Defense was the key. The Wheelcats held the Thunder to 11-of-50 shooting and forced Music City into 14 turnovers.
“Yesterday, we held both teams to 14 and 16. And I was like, man, and of course we were at eight at halftime, so I was thinking we might pull that off again. But we let a few go by and I’ll give them credit, they knocked down some good shots, too,” Mississippi coach Dwight Lindsey says. “But I was really proud of how they dialed in on defense and really committed to the changes that we made of getting out and stopping the ball pressure.”
Zion Redington led Music City (2-3) with 12 points and 16 rebounds. Evan Terrell had six points and seven rebounds, and El-Jhari Denning added four points and 15 rebounds.
Results for Sunday June, 27 2021
National Basketball Association Toyota Wheelchair Basketball National Championships
At Wichita Hoops in Wichita, Kan.
No. 9 Seattle Junior Sonics 61, No. 15 Dallas Junior Mavs 21
No. 12 Lakeshore Lakers 51, No. 11 ParaSport Spokane 34
No. 10 BlazeSports Junior Hawks (White) 44, No. 13 ATX (Austin) 42
No. 14 Houston Hustle 56, No. 16 Bennett Blazers 51
No. 8 RHI Racers 42, No. 7 Kansas City Kings 39
No. 5 Nebraska Red Dawgs 54, No. 6 DASA Rolling Rams 30
WASA Junior Bucks 52, Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets 44
Cincinnati Dragons 55, BlazeSports Junior Hawks (Red) 50 (overtime)
Varsity Invitational Division
Music City Thunder 27, OKC Wheels Of Thunder 20
Mississippi Wheelcats 34, Music City Thunder 22
Kansas City Kings 30, Dallas Junior Mavs 25
Lakeshore Sharks 38, WASA Junior Bucks 28