2014 Matthew Sapolin Memorial Wheelchair Basketball Tournament Print E-mail
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The 2014 Matthew Sapolin Memorial Wheelchair Basketball Tournament brought the nation’s best wheelchair basketball teams to Horace Mann School in the Bronx for two days of action-packed games. The Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks won the Championship Division final against the New York Rollin’ Knicks by a score of 68-45, and Jared Arambula (Dallas) took home the MVP award. The Division III final was a tightly contested match but in the end, the NRH Ambassadors (Washington, DC) edged out the Cleveland Wheelchair Cavs by a score of 65-62, and Harsh Thakkar (NRH) was named the MVP.  The exciting action kicked off on Saturday with a full slate of 14 games in the division preliminary rounds. The Cleveland Wheelchair Cavs (3-0) were the only Division III team to emerge undefeated from the first day of action, earning them the #1 seed in the East Division. In the West Division, the day ended with a three-way tie at 2-1 between the Nassau Kings (Uniondale, NY), Magee Spokesmen (Philadelphia, PA) and the NRH Ambassadors, with the Ambassadors ultimately earning the top seed through tiebreakers. The Bulova Nets (Hackensack, NJ; 2-1) and Brooklyn Nets (Brooklyn, NY; 1-2) earned the #2 and #3 seeds in the West Division, respectively, safely advancing to the playoffs on Sunday. The New England Blazers (Randolph, MA) and Connecticut Spokebenders (New Britain, CT) were unable to advance out of their respective divisions, as the tournament’s fierce competition left both teams winless 
after Saturday’s games. In the Championship Division, the Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks cruised to two victories over the New York Knicks (Manhattan, NY), setting up a hotly contested rematch for the title on Sunday.
 
On Sunday, the playoff action started to heat up with the Bulova Nets defeating the Magee Spokesmen by a score of 45-38 and the Nassau Kings upending the Brooklyn Nets by a score of 79-25 in the quarterfinals. The semifinal round saw both top seeds come away with victories as the Cleveland Cavs knocked off the Bulova Nets by a score of 53-33, and the NRH Ambassadors beat the Nassau Kings by a score of 68-49. The top two Division III teams in the tournament, the Cavs and the Ambassadors, were now set to meet later that day for the Division III title.
 
The Championship Division final needed to be decided by a matchup that was a rematch of the 2014 NWBA National Championship game between the Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks and the NY Rollin’ Knicks. Both team rosters were stacked with some of the best players in the world. The Knicks featured Patrick Anderson and David Eng who are members of the Canadian National team, which has won gold in three of the last four Paralympics. The Mavericks’ roster included five players who have competed on 
the international level: Jason Nelms, Jared Arambula, Jorge Sanchez and Aaron Gouge have played for the USA National team while George McPhail played for the Australian National team.  The game got off to a fast start and maintained a lightning quick pace throughout the first half. The Mavericks jumped out to an early lead thanks to many costly turnovers by the Knicks and the play of Jared Arambula (Mavs) who was able to convert those turnovers into points on a regular basis. 
 
 Patrick Anderson (Knicks) did all he could to keep the Knicks in the game despite the turnovers, but the Mavericks made sure to double-team him whenever possible. David Eng (Knicks) looked to pick up the slack for the Knicks by pouring in 11 points, but at the end of the first half, the Mavs held a 34-25 lead. The Mavericks started strong in the second half and extended their lead to 41-25 thanks to some sharp shooting by Jorge Sanchez and Jared Arambula. David Eng and Patrick Anderson continued to score for the Knicks despite the Mavericks’ tough defense, but the Mavs’ trio of Arambula, Sanchez and Jason Nelms had an answer for every Knick basket in the second half. The Mavs maintained their lead and when the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard read 68-45 in favor of the Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks.  Jared Armabula took home MVP honors after scoring 18 points in the championship game. Patrick Anderson from the Knicks was selected to the All-Tournament team after a great performance throughout the tournament. At the awards ceremony following the game, the players on each team were presented their awards by former NY Knick first-round draft pick John Wallace. 
 
The Division III final was up next and both teams were ready to put the finishing touches on a great tournament. Both teams came out in the first half with great ball movement and tough defense. It was evident early on that the Ambassadors’ duo of Kevin Atherley and Julius Ellerbe would be tough for the Cavs to contain as both players scored in the double digits in the first half. The Cavs had a duo of their own in Darron Lewis and USA National team member Will Waller who each scored over 10 points in the opening half. At the end of the first half, the Ambassadors held on to a 34-33 lead over the Cavs in a game that looked like it would come down to the final buzzer.
 
Harsh Thakkar (Ambassadors) had a relatively quiet first half with just four points, but in the second half he turned it up a notch, scoring 19 points to help his team hold their lead over the Cavs. Paul Zinn (Cavs) also came out strong in the second half scoring 14 points and helped cut the deficit to five with just under eight minutes remaining. The Cavs were able to make it a one point game with less than three minutes left, and missed free throws by the Ambassadors kept it that way until the last minute. The Cavs were unable to capitalize on the Ambassadors’ struggles from the free throw line, and in the final minute, Harsh Thakkar came through with a clutch basket to give his team a three point lead. The final buzzer sounded with the Ambassadors on top 65-62. Thakkar won the MVP plaque while his teammate Julius Ellerbe was named to the All-Tournament Team along with Will Waller (Cavs), Paul Zinn (Cavs), Steve Yedlock (Bulova Nets) and Chris St. Remy (Nassau Kings). 
Last Updated on Thursday, 16 October 2014 01:56