The University of Alabama men’s wheelchair basketball team won its first national championship in the program’s seven-year history by defeating seven-time winner Texas-Arlington 71-52, at Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday.
Alabama scored the last 17 points to break the game open in the National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament.
“We created this program from scratch seven years ago, and I’m tremendously proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish,” men’s head coach Miles Thompson said during a phone interview on Sunday. “This core group should really be proud. They’ve worked so hard during their time at the University and it showed. I couldn’t be more happy for those guys.”
Alabama’s Jared Arambula led scoring with 21 points and dished out 12 assists in the final game while Mark Booth finished with 18 points and made timely 3-pointers during the Tide’s final run to win the game. Arambula also scored 35 points in the semifinal game and Thompson called Arambula the tournament’s unofficial most valuable player.
“It’s all about the work with these guys,” Thompson said. “We all bought into the concept that there is nothing better than hard work. I’ve never worked harder as a coach and these players have never worked harder. I know it sounds corny, but without hard work, we wouldn’t have made it this far.”
Thompson said that the accomplishment meant a little more at a school like Alabama because of its strong athletic programs.
“The University of Alabama has such a deep history and tradition when it come to athletics and now we will forever be a part of that,” Thompson said. “No one can take that away from us.”
Alabama’s women’s team fell to Wisconsin-Whitewater, 56-41, in the championship game. Wisconsin-Whitewater finished the season with a 27-0 record to capture its second consecutive championship after Alabama won three straight from 2009 to 2011.