‘A tear to my eye’: Wheelchair basketball brings joy, heartbreak to title games

The women’s team clinched its seventh national title. The men’s team fell to the ever-Movin’ Mavs.


Courtesy of Kellcie Temple

CW Sports Staff

Saturday afternoon brought smiles and sadness for Alabama wheelchair basketball fans. The Alabama women’s wheelchair basketball team won the NWBA Collegiate Wheelchair National Championship for the 2020-2021 season. The men’s team fell to the University of Texas-Arlington Movin’ Mavs in their championship game. 

The Alabama Adapted Athletics program hosted the NWBA national championship this weekend at the Stran-Hardin Arena. Alabama stepped in to host after Wichita State stepped down. UA adapted athletics director Brent Hardin said the team was more than willing to accept the opportunity. 

“We found out about six weeks ago that Wichita State was not going to be able to host the collegiate championships, and we let the NWBA know that same day that we could handle it,” Hardin said. “Within three days they took us up on our offer, and we’ve been rolling with it ever since.”

The excitement was palpable throughout both wheelchair basketball programs. Both teams would now play for a national title at home. The Crimson Tide has not hosted a NWBA Collegiate wheelchair basketball championship since the new arena opened in 2018. Alabama men’s wheelchair basketball head coach Ford Burttram said hosting the national championship is meaningful for the entire Alabama Adapted Athletics program.

“I remember what it was like to play nationals at other places,” Burttram said. “For us to be able to play in our own house at the Stran-Hardin Arena, it really brings a tear to my eye thinking of how we have progressed, and a smile to my face knowing we’re not done progressing.” 

With excitement and joy in their hearts, the Alabama wheelchair basketball programs set their sights on bringing more national titles to Tuscaloosa. 

Sweep, Sweep Sweep: Women’s Team Wins Against UTA To Win National Title 

The women’s wheelchair basketball team capped off an impressive 2020-2021 season with their second-straight national title. The Crimson Tide swept the University of Texas-Arlington Lady Movin’ Mavs en route to the title. 

The win was marked by outstanding offensive play from senior Rosie Lalonde and freshman Mary Silberman.

To start off the contest, Alabama got their up-tempo offense going against the UTA’s press defense. Despite the two team trading shots early on, Alabama pulled away at the end of the first. The Crimson Tide led by 10 to end the first ten minutes of this contest. 

The Lady Movin’ Mavs would not be easy to put away, however. UTA began using more full-court press to rush the Alabama offense. 

It worked for two quarters. 

The Lady Mavs were able to cut Alabama’s lead down to just four points to enter the fourth quarter. Alabama, while still leading, was struggling on offense to get any looks inside the paint. UTA challenged Alabama on the perimeter in the second and third quarters. It looked like the Crimson Tide had no answers for UTA’s play. 

Alabama eventually found one in Lalonde. 

Lalonde had a stellar afternoon. Lalonde was the Crimson Tide’s leading scorer on Saturday. But what really made her performance special was her ability to consistently find holes in UTA’s defense. She was able to open up UTA’s defense to create shots for Alabama. Her perseverance allowed the Crimson Tide to find their offensive rhythm again. 

The Crimson Tide pulled away late in the fourth quarter. As the clock hit zero, the cheers from the fans in attendance grew louder. The women’s team had clinched their second straight national title, 67-53. 

But there was still work ahead for the adapted athletics program.

Too Much To Handle: Men’s Team Falls to Movin’ Mavs

The men’s wheelchair basketball team had their national championship matchup against the University of Texas-Arlington Movin’ Mavs later Saturday afternoon. To get to the title game, Alabama defeated the cross-state rival Auburn, 76-50. 

The UTA Movin’ Mavs presented a much tougher challenge for the Crimson Tide. 

Early on, UTA played great man-to-man and zone defense. The Mavs were able to rush the Crimson Tide’s shots, creating defensive rebounds. But despite UTA’s imposing defense, Alabama was able to match the Mavs shot-for-shot early in the game. 

This changed halfway through the first half.

Coupled with excellent ball movement and shot-making, the pressure by UTA proved to be a little much for the Tide to handle. The Mavericks opened up the score. This forced Alabama to make big plays. Few of those plays resulted in points. 

Alabama had their work cut out for them at halftime. They trailed 35-23, with UTA not showing any signs of slowing down. 

After the break, Alabama matched the Movin’ Mavs’ energy from the first half. The team made shots and began to pressure the Mavs on defense. 

Then, the Movin’ Mavs settled in. 

Behind a stellar performance from UTA sophomore Carrington Marendes, the Movin’ Mavs found their groove again on both sides of the court. The balanced all-court attack returned. 

It was too much for the Crimson Tide to handle. 

Alabama fought until the end, but fell to the Movin’ Mavs, 66-51.