February 18th & 19th 2017
Before we review the weekend’s games, 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 five more times. So every year on or around the NBA’s All Star break the Orlando Magic Wheels host our annual tournament.
This year’s tournament featured teams from New Orleans, Alabama, Virginia, Jacksonville, and Palm Beach, Florida. Going into the weekend, the Orlando Magic Wheels were ranked 9th nationally according to the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA). This is important in that our team is striving to receive an invitation to the National Championships at the end of March, and only the top 16 teams are selected to compete. The other teams at our tournament attempting to get into the Championships were Jacksonville, Alabama and New Orleans – lots of good competition.
Saturday’s games were set up with teams competing in 2 brackets. The Jacksonville Brooks Ballers took the lead in their bracket by defeating both the Palm Beach Lightning and the Lakeshore Alabama Lightning. Our Orlando Magic Wheels team emerged on top of the other bracket by defeating the Virginia Sunwheelers and the New Orleans Rolling Pelicans. Following the initial bracket competitions, additional games were played to determine which of the strongest teams would compete against Jacksonville & Orlando to begin Sunday’s playoffs. New Orleans and Lakeshore came out on top of those games and moved up to the winners bracket for Sunday.
Sunday morning saw some fierce competition between Jacksonville and New Orleans with the Brooks Ballers pulling out a victory (52-48) after being behind for most of the game. The Magic Wheels dispatched the Lakeshore Lightning a little more handily (53-29) to move on to the championship game with Jacksonville. In the ensuing game for 3rd place in the tournament, New Orleans led most of the way but Lakeshore came on strong late in the game before eventually falling (57-42). Congratulations to the New Orleans Rolling Pelicans for their 3rd place finish.
The final game of the day between old time rivals Jacksonville Brooks Ballers and the Orlando Magic Wheels was a fitting close to an entertaining and hard fought tournament. The game was tight the whole way with Orlando clinging to as much as a 5 or 6 point lead most of the 1st half. In the 2nd half, with quite a few players in foul trouble on both teams it looked like it would come down to who could keep their most formidable lineup on the floor. Finally, Orlando pulled ahead by 10 points late in the game and held on for a well deserved win (53-47), and 1st place in the 6th Annual All-Star Tournament! Congratulations to the Jacksonville Brooks Ballers for a well-deserved 2nd place finish.
This was the 1st time the Orlando Magic Wheels have won our own home Tournament. So we got to keep the trophy and all in all it was a tremendous team win, but let’s be clear about what a team win really is. It’s not just the players on the court, or the players and coaches on the bench, it’s a team win for all of our donors, volunteers, and supporters without whom this wouldn’t have been possible.
Thanks also to the Referees and especially to the wheelchair basketball teams that traveled to Orlando to compete and make this event such a success. Now we will await our invitation to the National Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Louisville, KY and get ready to bring home the title!