Women’s wheelchair basketball beats highly ranked mens teams

 

 

By Josh Birnbaum

The Illinois women’s wheelchair basketball team came out of this past weekend’s tournament with a 3-2 record, a respectable finish given they were up against top-ten ranked men’s teams.

“Nice job by our women,” head coach Mike Frogley said. “They just beat the seventh, eighth and ninth ranked men’s teams in the nation.”

The biggest win was its final match, a 52-47 overtime defeat of No. 7 Alabama. The team will play the Alabama women’s team next weekend in Atlanta, Ga., at the national tournament.

“This is a great message to send, ‘Not only do we think we can beat you guys, but we just beat your men’s team. That’s how good you’re going to have to be next week,'” Frogley said.

The women out-shot Alabama in the second half, 46 percent to 28 percent. Additionally, two Illini players scored at least 20 points, Carlee Hoffman, 20, and Shelley Chaplin, 22.

“We got better and better every game,” Chaplin said. “We knew that we had to play really well as a team coming into Nationals next week.”

The Illini also bested Oklahoma State University, 53-49, and Missouri, 48-27. Again, Hoffman was a top-scorer with 27 points against Missouri and 33 points against OSU.

“She’s still recovering from jet lag of being in Japan last week and she’s sick with the flu,” Frogley said. “Dare I say, it was a ‘Jordanesque’ performance.”

Also, because Frogley said he expected the Missouri game to be easier, he gave more game time to younger players like Lena Henrikkson, a freshman from Sweden.

“It takes a long time to get into your new team and get into new routines,” Henrikkson said. “But I really think that I’m beginning to get it.”

The women had a more difficult time, however, with No. 4 University of Texas-Arlington and No. 6 Arizona, losing 53-35 and 70-35, respectively.

But going into Nationals next week, the women feel that they need to build off the positive outcomes of this weekend.

“We just need to maintain our intensity,” said Hoffman. “When we come with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion and intensity, we’re unstoppable.”

And Frogley said he has high hopes for the national tournament.

“Wednesday, we’ll hop on the bus and see if we can’t go down to Atlanta and win our second national championship in a row,” Frogley said.