University of Arizona takes down in-state rival for Division I title.
PHOENIX – The University of Arizona dethroned the defending champ for the United States Quad Rugby Association (USQRA) Division I title Saturday afternoon. Even sweeter, its championship game victory came over its in-state rival.
The top-seeded Wildcats defeated the No. 3 seed Phoenix 360Heat 55-44 at Ability360 in Phoenix to claim the USQRA Division I title, finishing 5-0 in the tournament – including 2-0 against the 360Heat.
After defeating the 360Heat 56-54 on Thursday, the University of Arizona pulled away in the third quarter and the game wasn’t as close this time around.
Leading 28-24 at halftime Saturday, the Wildcats increased the margin to 39-28 by the end of the 8-minute third period. Three times, they forced the 360Heat to turn the ball over on back-to-back possessions in the period. And the University of Arizona capitalized, scoring points off each turnover. The Wildcats scored two straight points to open the quarter and go up 30-24 with 7:23 left, moved ahead 35-26 with 4:58 left in the period and then 38-27 with 2:34 remaining in the quarter.
Josh Wheeler (2.5 classification) scored four times during those sequences, while Daisuke Ikezake (3.0), the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, scored two. But Wheeler acknowledged it was all about matchups – taking out the low-pointers high – that helped them, as well.
“It’s pretty cool to have a D-I national championship. I’m very excited. And being able to have it in front of my family, my parents and my fiancé (Stephanie Wenneborg) it’s pretty awesome,” said Wheeler, who was named to the Division I all-tournament team. “We were pretty confident at the beginning, and we knew if we get the defense that we want they struggle – and we got the defense we wanted several times in that game. It paid off.”
The University of Arizona defeated the Minnesota Steelheads (50-43) and 360Heat on Friday and the Portland Pounders (64-36) and the Shepherd Smash (61-45) on Thursday.
The 360Heat defeated Shepherd (54-36) and Portland (53-32) on Thursday and the Texas Stampede (49-41) on Friday.
Texas defeated Minnesota 55-51 to finish in third place. Denver beat Portland 55-42 to place fifth, and the Tampa Generals knocked off Shepherd 56-51 to finish seventh.
Wheeler was joined on the Division I all-tournament team by teammates Lee Fredete (1.0) and Chad Cohan, along with Portland’s Seth McBride (2.0), 360Heat’s Shin Shimakawa (3.0) and Texas’ Thomas Moylan (3.5).
Grand Rapids Holds On In Division II
Second-seeded Grand Rapids held off No. 1 seed Northridge’s second half-comeback attempt and knocked off the Knights 58-52 in the United States Quad Rugby Association Division II championship game Saturday afternoon at Ability360 in Phoenix.
“It was a championship game. It was close, how it should be,” said Grand Rapids player Lars Mertens (3.5 classification).
Grand Rapids led 15-13 after the first quarter and increased its lead to 37-30 with 4 minutes and 18 seconds left in the third period. Northridge clawed back, though, cutting the deficit to four twice in the last minute of the third quarter and then three (52-49) with 3:38 left in the fourth.
But Grand Rapids changed up its tactic late and closed the period on a 6-3 run to seal the win.
Instead of usually getting the ball to Mertens, the Thunder found Tyler Cumings more for scores. Cumings scored three of Grand Rapids’ final six points and the Thunder forced two turnovers in the final 2:30 to preserve the win.
“I always used to play Division I rugby, but our team, it’s an accomplishment to make it to nationals, let alone to play for the trophy. And then that next step – take that trophy home. So, for me, I am beyond excited for these guys cause we’ve never even been close to this. To be able to bring that trophy to them, that’s amazing for them, that’s amazing for our team,” Mertens said. “Well, we now have (tournament Most Valuable Player) Matt Milstead, he’s part of U.S. rugby and he’s super competitive and everybody picked up on it. And then we got a little lucky. We played well. We just took it to them. We just played well I think.”
Grand Rapids defeated the NorCal Quake (16-5) and the MedStar Punishers (48-36) on Friday and the AbilityKC Revolution (56-31) and the Magee Eagles (58-35) on Thursday, while Northridge defeated MedStar (58-42) and AbilityKC (55-43) on Friday and the Cali Storm (1-0) and Chicago (64-26) on Thursday.
MedStar finished in third place, defeating Ability KC 46-39. NorCal defeated Magee 50-35 for fifth place. And the Chicago Bears defeated the Cali Storm 47-36 for seventh place.
Grand Rapids’ Nick Long (0.5) was named to the all-tournament team, along with Chicago’s Luis Cazares 91.0), Magee’s Jim Thompson (1.5), MedStar’s Eric Ingram (2.0), Chicago’s Chris Hull (2.5), NorCal’s Steven Toyoji (3.0) and Northridge’s Rene Hernesz (3.5) along with Milstead.