Illinois wheelchair basketball teams fall short at nationals


Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Kendra Zeman takes a shot during the game against Alabama at the Activities and Recreation Center on February 12. The Illini won 56-47.

By Thomas Polcyn

This weekend, the Illinois wheelchair basketball teams participated in the NWBA’s collegiate national tournament.EJ

The women went in as the top seed out of four, and the men were the fifth out of nine.EJ Both teams won big in the first round, which set up the women in the championship and the men in the semifinals.

The Illini men had a semifinals matchup with top-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater and lost 64-55.EJ

Though they would not reach the national championship, the Illini men were given a chance to take third against Texas-Arlington.EJ

After trading leads in the second half, the game was decided in overtime. The Illini ultimately lost 63-59.EJ

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    Ryan Neiswender and Spencer Heslop played well for the Illini.EJ Neiswender contributed 23 points, six assists and four rebounds. Heslop chipped in 15 points and seven rebounds.

    Texas-Arlington players Jan Gans and Andy Kraft proved to be too much for Illinois.EJ Gans had 25 points, 17 rebounds and three assists. Kraft also had a huge game, with 29 points, four rebounds and six assists.

    With the loss, the Illini took fourth place on the year, one better than their original seeding. EJWisconsin-Whitewater went on to win the men’s championship 73-55 over Alabama.EJ

    The women cruised to a 62-18 victory in the first round over Wisconsin-Whitewater.EJ Following the victory the Illini advanced to the championship for a matchup with rival Texas-Arlington.EJ

    All year Illini head coach Stephanie Wheeler considered Texas-Arlington to be her team’s toughest competition and that feeling proved true Saturday. The Illini lost to the Mavericks 65-51.

    Kendra Zeman had a big game for the Illini with 17 points and 13 rebounds.EJ Usual standout Gail Gaeng put up 24 points and nine assists, but struggled shooting from the field — she shot 11-for-29.EJ

    Morgan Wood and Rose Hollerman led Texas-Arlington to victory. Hollerman had 35 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Wood came up just a rebound short of a triple-double, with 13 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds.

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