February 17th & 18th 2018
In case you missed the write-up from last year, here’s a little background on Orlando’s Wheelchair Basketball Tournament. In 2012 the city of Orlando hosted the NBA’s All Star Tournament, and our team decided it would be a great opportunity to showcase wheelchair basketball by hosting our own Tournament. The Orlando Magic Wheels have been a local NWBA Division 3 wheelchair basketball team for 25+ years, but it had been many seasons since we actually hosted a tournament. By coordinating with Orange County to obtain local gyms to play the games and raising funds through a generous grant from the Harper Foundation we had the basics to hold a tournament. Without going into all the details it takes to run this type of event, let’s just say that without all the planning, coordination, volunteers and the myriad of other donations we were able to secure, none of this would have been possible. Much less repeating those endeavors six more times. So every year on or around the NBA’s All Star break the Orlando Magic Wheels host our annual tournament.
Aside from the Orlando home team, this year’s tournament featured teams from Atlanta, Chicago, Charlotte, Jacksonville, and Sunrise, Florida. Saturday’s games were set up with teams competing in 2 brackets. The Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets took the lead in their bracket by defeating both the Sunrise Suns and the Orlando Magic Wheels. On the 2nd Court, the Shepherd Stealers from Atlanta defeated both the Jacksonville Brooks Ballers and the LWSRA Hawks from Chicago. Following the initial bracket competitions, additional games were played by the to determine Sunday’s matchups. The Brooks Ballers and the LWSRA Hawks improved their chances to play for the Tournament title by defeating Orlando and Sunrise respectively.
On Sunday morning the two top teams – Charlotte and Shepherd dispatched LWSRA and Brooks to secure their places in the Championship game. The last 3 games of the Tournament would determine the final ranking for the weekend. In a low scoring contest the Orlando Magic Wheels hung on to defeat the Sunrise Suns for 5th place by a score of 24-19. The battle for 3rd place was a see-saw competition between The Brooks Ballers and the LWSRA Hawks in which neither team could get more than 4 points up on the other. Several missed shots by Brooks in the closing minutes sealed their fate as the Hawks outlasted them by a score of 38-36 for the 3rd place trophy. Congratulations to both teams for a most entertaining consolation game.
The final game of the day pitted 2 exceptional teams battling for 1st place, and it certainly lived up to the hype. In a game where Charlotte stormed off to an early lead Shepherd fought their way back in the 2nd half and almost pulled out the win. The Rollin’ Hornets were not to be denied though, and at the end they sank a couple of late free throws to seal their 1st place finish 52-49. Wow! What a fun game to watch!
Although the Orlando Magic Wheels didn’t finish on top this year we enjoyed the competition, and our Tournament is turning into a premier event of the NWBA season. I’m pretty sure the teams that participated really enjoyed themselves. I overheard one player from Chicago saying how much he loved being out of the snow and basking in the Florida sunshine. In addition, we may have attracted the attention of a couple potential sponsors - keep your fingers crossed. Anyway, thank you to the teams that traveled to our tournament and the Referees, volunteers, spectators and donors that made this such a success. We hope to see you again next year!
One final thought, the Orlando Magic Wheels weren’t nearly as successful as last year’s team, so we don’t expect to receive an invitation to the National Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Louisville, KY in April. However, there is always next year and hopefully we will keep improving and get back to our winning ways next season. In the mean time the team has several Middle School invitations in the coming months to promote disability awareness in the community thru exhibition games and interaction with the students.