Wednesday, March 29th
The Orlando Magic Wheels Division III team arrived in Louisville by car, van and plane on Wednesday. Everyone got here in time for practice at 6 PM at the Kentucky Expo Center. All across the convention center floor they have 12 temporary basketball courts set up and teams from 3 adult divisions and 3 junior divisions (96 teams in total) were holding practice. Obviously not all at once – each team scheduled 1 hour slots to get some warm ups in. Tomorrow the Tournament will begin at 10 AM with the Junior divisions beginning the competitions. To give you some idea of the complexities of transporting wheelchair athletes across the country, here’s what we encountered at Midway airport. Flying in from Orlando a couple of us switched planes in Chicago where we had an hour delay while they loaded 80 basketball chairs on the plane to Louisville. That was just from teams coming out of Arizona & Houston. Fortunately our team was able to transport all of our sports wheelchairs in a cargo van.
The Florida Conference was well represented this year by quality teams from across the state. From Miami the Division 1 Miami Heat Wheels are a top contender. The Tampa Bay Strong Dogs and the Ft. Lauderdale Sharks will be battling for the Division II trophy. Finally, in Division III the Jacksonville Brooks Ballers and the Orlando Magic Wheels are representing the state. Opening round games in all Divisions begin tomorrow.
Thursday, March 30th
Our 1st round game was at 2 PM against the Tuscon Lobos. Early success spoiled us when we had as much as an 8 point lead a few minutes into the 1st half. Needless to say, teams don’t get into the top 16 on their looks, and the Lobos came back. After our initial success we were clinging to a 5 point lead at half time. The Lobos started the 2nd half with a few quick buckets to take a 3 point lead. From then on it was back and forth with several lead changes. So with 4 minutes left in the game, the Magic Wheels were down by 3. We turned up the pressure and finally pulled ahead on the strength of our free throw shooting. Final score 53-47!
Unfortunately the other Florida teams playing at 2 PM didn’t fare so well. Both Jacksonville and Tampa lost their opening games and will compete in the loser’s bracket at 6 tonight. At 4 PM the last 2 Florida teams – Miami from Division 1 & Ft. Lauderdale from Division II also lost their 1st round contests. All 4 Florida teams played their 2nd games at 6 & 8 PM. It was another tough round for the Florida Conference – only Miami won their game this evening, bummer!
Friday, March 31st
This morning’s game saw us competing against the 4th ranked Rancho Renegades. It was another close game in the 1st half with the Magic Wheels managing only a 3 point half time lead. The 2nd half continued being a close game with several lead changes. Things got better with about 6 minutes left when we finally took the lead for good. Another late surge and a bit of tenacity had the Orlando Magic Wheels bringing down the Renegades 56-44.
All of the other Florida teams played today to establish where they finished in the Tournament. Tampa & Ft. Lauderdale both got past their Division II opponents handily and will play each other on Saturday for 13th place. Jacksonville played the Triad Trackers for a shot at 13th place. Unfortunately they lost in OT after all but 2 of their players fouled out. So they finished regulation with only 4 players and ended up playing 2 on 5 – Yikes! Tomorrow they play the Spartanburg Pistons to stay out of the cellar. Miami’s Division 1 opponent was the TIRR Hotwheels whom they defeated. They will play the Seattle Sonics on Saturday for 9th place.
Saturday, April 1st
Semi-finals this morning against the #1 ranked Division III team, the LWSRA Hawks from South Chicago. Turns out they weren’t the top ranked team for nothing. We just couldn’t match their speed and got beaten soundly 64-35. Ouch!
When 4 PM rolled around we were ready to take on the #2 seeded Las Vegas Yuccas. We held them in check in the 1st half and even held a slim lead at half time. In the 2nd half we went back and forth with several lead changes. Then with about 8 minutes left the Yuccas pulled ahead and we never did catch up. At the end their free throw shooting was our demise and the final score was 61-48. So the Orlando Magic Wheels finished in the final 4, not too shabby.
Although we finished just out of the trophy and medal awards we accomplished something much more important. After the game our own 18 year old HS Senior Emily Clarke signed a Letter of Intent to go to the University of Texas Arlington. Her College Scholarship to play wheelchair basketball with the Dallas Rollin’ Mavs was one of the objectives we had for this Tournament. We still have one more player, 23 year old Jake Crespo who is being pursued by several colleges to play wheelchair basketball. He should know which school will select him in the next couple of weeks but is pinning his hopes on the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater Warhawks! Jake currently attends Daytona Community College to get his grades in line for that scholarship.
How did the other Florida Conference teams do? The Jacksonville Brooks Ballers defeated the Spartanburg Pistons to finish in 15th place. In Division II the Ft. Lauderdale Sharks and the Tampa Bay Strong dogs played a close game with many lead changes with the Sharks pulling out the win to take 13th place. In Division 1 the Miami Heat Wheels finished with a win over the Seattle Sonics 66-58 for a 9th place finish. Congratulations to the Florida Conference teams for their competitive play in Louisville this year!
Sunday, April 2nd
Championship games for all Divisions were played this afternoon. In Division 1 the Dallas Mav’s played an exciting double OT game against the New York Rollin’ Knicks. The Knicks had opportunities at the end of regulation and at the end of the 1st OT to win but missed their opportunities and finally fell to Dallas by a couple of points. In the Division II finally the other Dallas team beat the Cleveland Cavaliers for the DII Championship. Dallas took home a lot of hardware! As for the DIII Championship the LWSRA Hawks faced off against a very powerful Oklahoma Raptors team. It was a terrific close game all the way but the Raptors had a player that was deadly from 3 point range and he scored a single game Tournament high of 54 points! Anyway, Oklahoma upset the #1 Hawks by 9 points and they are the new DIII Champions.
After all the success we had this weekend the Orlando Magic Wheels still weren’t done. Awards were given for various individual accomplishments during the Tournament. Two of our players were voted to the DIII All Tournament Team! Congratulations to Jack Roudabush and Javier Rodriguez for their amazing play, and to our other starters for an excellent Tournament. Last but not least, our Player/Coach, Joyce Kania Prakke, was selected to receive the DIII National Sportsmanship Award! Congratulations to our entire team, volunteers, sponsors and supporters for a wonderful Season!