written by Katie Corcoran
photos by Michael A. Clubine
HACKENSACK, NJ – Four teams have competed in the 20th Annual Al Youakim Wheelchair Basketball Tournament held Saturday and Sunday, November 1 and 2, 2014 in Hackensack, NJ -- NY Nets, Bulova Nets, Nassau Kings, New England Blazers.
The Al Youakim Wheelchair Basketball Tournament has become a regular event in the Wheelchair Sports Federation’s basketball season. Its conception predates the organization -- it began as a celebration for a man who dedicated much of his life to promoting and organizing wheelchair sports.
Al Youakim’s brother, Peter, was paralyzed while fighting in World War II. When Peter returned home, the brothers continued to play basketball, eventually starting a wheelchair basketball team, with players participating in their hospital chairs. Wheelchair basketball and other sports began to grow in popularity across the country, and Al became associated with the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association (EPVA) and later inspired the development of the Wheelchair Sports Federation.
In 1995, to celebrate the start of Al’s 50th season with wheelchair basketball, the EPVA organized a basketball tournament with participants from all across the country. This was first of what would become the annual event.
The final game leading into this year's Championship games was a battle of the Nets (NY vs. Bulova) and remained even for most of the first half, with the scored tied at 18 a piece with five and half minutes to play until halftime. Bulova’s Jim Jeffreys scored a couple of baskets late in the half to help give his team a 26-18 lead. But NY opened the second half strong, scoring eight unanswered points, until James (#20) of Bulova snapped the streak. His teammate Dalmau (#13) soon drew a foul and completed the three point play to bring the score to 30-28, Bulova. But the NY Nets refused to quit, taking the lead mid way through the half (35-32). Bulova soon took back control of the tempo and the lead, with an 11-3 run in the last four and half minutes of the game, to beat their NY namesake by a final score of 54-44.
On the heels of their loss to Bulova, the NY Nets faced off against the New England Blazers. NY led by one point mid way through the first half, before going on a 10-0 run for the next six minutes. The Blazers were able to close the gap a bit, heading into halftime down by seven points. They took the lead five minutes into the second half and never looked back, extending their lead to double digits and defeating the NY Nets by a final score of 49-37, and securing third place in the tournament.
The defending champions, Nassau Kings, met the Bulova Nets in the tournament’s championship game. The contest was close throughout the first half, and the score was tied at 28 at halftime. However, Bulova gained a quick lead early in the second half, scoring eight points in the first two and half minutes. But the Kings fought back, and with the help of a three pointer from #23, regained the lead 42-38 with 15 minutes remaining. They continued to add to their lead, eventually extending it to an 11 point margin with about five minutes left to play. This remained the difference until the end – the Nassau Kings defeated the Bulova Nets by a final score of 59-48 to win the championship.
Chris St. Remy (Nassau Kings) received the Mike Lione Most Valuable Player Award and Carlos Ruiz (NY Nets) received the Freddy Jones Sportsmanship Award. Awards were also given to CJ Johnson (NE Blazers), Lauren Konetsky (NY Nets), Roger Shelton (Nassau Kings), Jerome Simones (NE Blazers), Chris St. Remy (Nassau Kings), and Steven Yedlock (Bulova Nets) for athletic accomplishments in their class at the tournament.
About the Author: Katie Corcoran is a member of the Wheelchair Sports Federation media team. The all-volunteer media team consists of professional writers and photographers who donate their time and expertise to showcase the athleticism of disabled U.S. athletes and highlight their world class achievements in adapted sports. The Wheelchair Sports Federation is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for adults and youth with disabilities to play sports recreationally and competitively. For more information, visit www.WheelchairSportsFederation.org.
All photos by Michael A. Clubine
(larger resolution available upon request)
Chris St Remy
"Chris St. Remy (Nassau Kings) keeps the ball from Mark James (Bulova Nets)"
"Carlos Ruiz (NY Nets) received the Freddy Jones Sportsmanship Award at the 20th Annual Al Youakim Wheelchair Basketball Tournament"
"Lauren Konetsky (NY Nets) passes the ball at the 20th Annual Al Youakim Wheelchair Basketball Tournament"
"Luis Dalmau (Bulova Nets) prepares to pass the ball to teammate, Mark James, at the 20th Annual Al Youakim Wheelchair Basketball Tournament"
"Four teams gathered to compete in the 20th Annual Al Youakim Wheelchair Basketball Tournament"