Illinois wheelchair basketball teams heading to Alabama for final regular season tournament


Tweet- @IlliniWCBball plays final regular season tournament in preparation of national tournament #Illini

As the opportunity to achieve their goal of a national championship nears, the Illinois wheelchair basketball teams will travel to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to play in their final regular season tournaments of the season.

The Illinois women’s team is heading into the tournament on fire, after going 7-1 in its last eight games. As a whole, the team is really clicking, and the team’s leaders have been phenomenal.

“We have really played well as a team lately,” women’s head coach Stephanie Wheeler said. “The important thing for us right now is consistency and continuing to play as a team. When we all play our roles and work together I think we can win any game.”

It has showed recently, as the team has been led by seniors Gail Gaeng, Megan Blunk, and Kendra Zeman.

Wheeler said she has really liked the way they have learned to play together and with so much confidence. She said that when they play like they have recently, that they are a “hard team to beat,” and that the whole team really benefits from it.

Though they are still trying to win every game they can this weekend, the women do not have much to gain or lose in this tournament. Unless they go winless, the Illini are set pretty firmly to be the first seed in the national tournament.

“We are lucky to be in the position that we can go into this tournament without much pressure,” Wheeler said. “If we win all four, it’s a lock that we would be the first seed, but even if we lost all of our games the lowest we could drop is to second.”

The men will also be looking to finish strong before they attempt to make their own run at nationals.

Head coach Matt Buchi said his team will really continue to push their defensive focus this weekend.

“Defense is still definitely ging to be our biggest focus,” Buchi said. “We have had really good offensive opportunities it is just a matter of time before the shots start dropping. Defensively we still have a lot of room to improve. It’s been our big emphasis all season and if we can put it together we should succeed.”

Offensively, the Illini will continue to rely on heavy production from guards Ryan Neiswender and Spencer Heslop.

In recent tournaments they have carried the team offensively, and if they can continue to do so, the Illini will be in good shape.

Following this tournament, both teams will have played in eight tournaments, and will play in their final tournament of the year for nationals at Edinboro University.

The teams have high expectations, and believe that a national championship is a possibility for both sides.

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