Wheelchair ends season successfully

By Lucas Deal

Clinging to a four-point lead with five minutes remaining in the final game of his team’s regular season, wheelchair basketball head coach Mike Frogley was confident that his women would hang on.

“They didn’t have enough time,” Frogley said of Arizona, who at the time had just rallied from a 10-point deficit to cut the score to 52-48. “They didn’t have the three-point shooters to rally.”

It turns out Frogley was right, as the Illini successfully held on for a 68-56 win, their biggest of the season. Only 24 hours removed from a pair of devastating losses to Wisconsin-Whitewater and Arizona, Frogley said the win will propel the Illini women into the National Championships.

Despite the big win, the tournament began with a rough start. In their opening game of the tournament, the Illini women were blasted 61-14 by Wisconsin-Whitewater. Illinois shot an awful 14 percent for the game and had 23 turnovers.

In their next game, the Illini were defeated by Arizona 65-48. Trailing by only 10 points at halftime, bad second half shooting led to the loss. Senior Jennifer Warkins led the Illini with 28 points in the game.

With one day to recuperate from the losses, the Illini came back with a vengeance Saturday night against the Wildcats. Up only two at the half, Illinois shot the lights out in the second half, finishing 53 percent for the game. Warkins led all scorers with 43 points, while freshman Carlee Hoffman added 13 points and nine assists.

“We got contributions from everybody tonight,” Frogley said. “The reason why (Warkins) got the looks was because everyone else had to be guarded.”

The Illini men also participated in the tournament, and opened Friday morning with wins over Arizona and Edinboro. Senior Adam Lancia led the team in scoring in both games with 17 and 21 points.

After a six-hour break, the men completed their first day of action with a loss to Texas-Arlington. Illinois fell behind early 24-6 and still trailed by 18 late in the first half before a technical foul by junior Denny Muha energized the team. The Illini rallied to within three with four minutes remaining, but couldn’t get over the hump, losing 70-60. The Illini were led by senior Jeff Townsend’s 22 points, and Muha added 16.

“We’ve got a group of guys, they don’t quit battling,” Frogley said.

The Illini wrapped up their regular season Saturday with a pair of losses to Wisconsin-Whitewater. Poor shooting doomed the Illini in both games, as Whitewater capitalized on several missed opportunities by the Illini.

“The bottom line, we just didn’t hit our shots,” Frogley said. “We shot 30 percent in the second half (of the second game) and you just can’t keep doing that.”

The Illini women now have two weeks to prepare for their national championship tournament, where they will most likely be the favorite.

The men have an extra week off, which they hope to use to create an edge and gain momentum.

“Everything we’ve asked them to do in practice is paying off,” Frogley said. “We’re on the right path.”