Men's wheel chair basketball shines in national tournament
On March 24th, the UA men's wheelchair basketball team won third place at the Toyota National Adult Division I Wheelchair Basketball Tournament. Seven members of teh basketball team were UA students.
The University of Arizona men’s wheelchair basketball team won third place at the Toyota National Adult Division I Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in Tallmadge, Ohio, on March 24. The Wildcats won 76-75 on a last-second shot over the MedStar NRH Punishers of Washington, D.C. The team is part of the University of Arizona Adaptive Athletics.
Tyrone “Stretch” Griner, Arizona’s team captain, averaged 25.4 PPG, 10.2 RPG and 6.7 APG on the entire season and earned first-team All-Tournament D-I honors. Josh Brewer earned second-team All-Tournament D-I honors.
Brewer was responsible for the hockey assist to Griner, who then passed the ball to Takenori Ishikawa for the game-winning layup with 0.4 seconds left. Ishikawa scored his final basket as an Arizona Wildcat on the play of the game.
The ‘Cats entered the tournament ranked sixth overall, and with their 3-1 record, they were able to move into the top three. This year’s third-place performance was an improvement from last season, when the ‘Cats finished sixth in the nation.
“We always finish top eight,” said head coach Mike Beardsley, who is also the program coordinator and has been with the team for nine years.
Earlier in the season, the ‘Cats took on the Punishers in Phoenix and lost by a final score of 61-58, so the win over them in the tournament served as a redemption match.
“We definitely had an axe to grind. We really wanted a rematch,” Arizona’s starting center Karl Odegaard Yares said.
That game, played on Jan. 27, was also for a third-place title.
“It was sweet. It was revenge; that makes it even sweeter,” Brewer said.
The 2018-2019 men’s wheelchair basketball team was made up of 12 athletes, seven of which were students at UA. Next year, the team projects 10 players on their team, and all 10 are expected to be enrolled at the UA. Griner, a former football player at Hofstra University, will be a freshman along with Brewer, who was previously with Team USA Rugby. Yares is also looking forward to going back to school. The 2019-2020 season marks a larger shift for men’s basketball, however, as the team will be moving from Division I to the Intercollegiate division.
“We have high expectations as a program next year. We’ll be competitive for a championship,” Beardsley said.
Along with the thriving men’s wheelchair basketball team, the Arizona Adaptive Athletics program is making strides in nearly every other sport. Arizona adaptive rugby just won the 2019 United States Quad Rugby Association Championship on March 31 in Rockford, Ill., to make them back-to-back champions. The Wildcats won 50-45 against the Denver Harlequins. Starting in May, UA will also begin hosting an annual adaptive golf event held at Sewailo Golf Club. This will make Tucson home to the first-ever collegiate adaptive golf club in the country.
Seeing these strides in other sports has not gone unnoticed by the basketball team.
“It’s a really good time for the program,” Beardsley said.
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