6th Annual Wheelchair Basketball All-Star Tournament

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!

2016 Invictus Games Summary

SORA Coaches Katie and Justin Lednar were recently honored when they were selected to officiate the indoor rowing portion of the 2016 Invictus Games held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports this past week. (May 8-12) The games were created by the Royal Kingdom’s Prince Harry in 2012 to showcase the athletic talents of wounded veterans.  The athletes are selected from 15 member countries of the coalition forces to compete for respective nation in 10 different sports. This is the first time that any country has hosted the event outside of Great Brittan.

Coach Katie and Coach Justin were selected from a nation wide search because of their extensive work and expertise in adaptive rowing.  They have run SORA’s adaptive program since its beginning and have worked at every level of adaptive rowing from learn to row, to recreational and regional competitive programs, all the way to coaching the U.S. National Para-Rowing team to a World Championship Gold medal and a Paralympic Bronze Medal in 2012.  Their fellow officials included several Olympic and Paralympic champions, the directors of USRowing’s Paralympic high performance division, past and present US National Team Adaptive coaches, and the directors of the Concept2 Adaptive Rowing division.

2016 Invictus Games Indoor Rowing Team
2016 Invictus Games Team

In addition to the efforts of our coaches, SORA was vital to the success of the competition as this years Invictus Games saw a record number of athletes competing.  Several late entries to the event left the organizers short on equipment.  The event coordinators put out an emergency call and within 45 minutes SORA was able to deliver all of the needed rowing machines and custom adaptive seats to the venue.  This quick response made it possible for every one of the more than 200 veterans to be able to compete.

“Katie and I were honored to be chosen to be a part of this year’s Invictus Games.  The nearly 14 hour work day left us exhausted, but the spirit, determination, and sincere gratitude of the athletes kept us going and made it all worth it.  We are proud of SORA’s commitment to adaptive rowing and the impact that commitment has made on the lives of so many disabled athletes locally, nationally, and now internationally.”

2016 Invictus Games Indoor Rowing Event Footage (Raw, Unedited)

INVICTUS GAMES 2016 | Indoor Rowing Finals HIGHLIGHTS MELT (5/9/16) from Invictus Games on Vimeo.