TIDE WOMEN PREPARE FOR NATIONALS

The sound of the cheering crowd overpowered the sound of chairs banging into each other as the University of Alabama women’s wheelchair basketball team played the University of Texas Arlington women’s wheelchair basketball team in Foster Auditorium for the Collegiate Classic tournament Friday evening.

The University of Alabama lost 54 – 42 to UTA in the first game of the tournament at the University of Alabama.

Maude Jacques, Caitlin McDermott and Elissa “Mouse” Robinson celebrated their last home game and had some of their best performances on Friday night.

Jacques dominated the first half with 10 points and strong defense. Robinson sped up and down the court pressuring the Mavericks and forcing turnovers that kept the Tide in the game. McDermott’s enthusiasm and 5 points helped keep the Tide working hard.

Although the Tide did not defeat the Movin’ Mavs, UA answered the Mavericks with three key steals that stopped the Mavericks from dominating the first three quarters.

“We struggled the most with communicating effectively and I think that we struggled a bit with the excitement and stress of being in this environment, but I think we fought hard to stay in the game and stay positive,” Darda Sales said.

Morgan Wood and Rose Hollerman of UTA scored a combined total of 43 out of 54 points and were the key players that won the game for UTA.

The Tide women came into the game with four losses to the Mavericks this season. The Tide is 5-8 in conference and will finish the season in third place behind UTA in second place. The UA women are set to play UTA again in nationals in March to give the Mavericks one more battle.

“Every time we have played UTA, we have gotten closer and closer to beating them and I’m still going into our next game with the mentality that we have a chance to win,” said Maude Jacques. “They haven’t defeated us yet.”

The Tide started their Saturday of games with a huge win over the University of Arizona. The women dominated Arizona 55-2. The first 18 minutes of the game the Tide were unanswered in points by the Arizona wildcats.

Communication may have been an issue for the Tide Friday night, but Saturday afternoon the University of Alabama women’s wheelchair basketball team showed what true team chemistry can accomplish.

Arinn “Juice” Young scored 21 points and Brittany Gustafson scored 13 points making up about half of the team’s score. These baskets wouldn’t have been possible without the many forced turnovers by Maude, Savannah and Caitlin.

The Tide defended so effectively the Wildcats’ shot clock ran out numerous times before they could get a shot off.

The second game of the day was against the University of Illinois. The Tide lost to Illinois for the sixth time this season. The score was ten points within reach during the whole game, but the Tide could not catch up. The final score was 58-49.

The energy from both teams and the crowd created a highly competitive and physical game. Both teams hit the floor hard on many different occasions, but Illinois’s shooting skills ultimately gave them the win.

Illinois players Gail Gaeng, Kendra Zeman and Megan Blunk scored almost all of the points for Illinois and Zeman’s height gave Illinois a huge advantage over the Tide.

Young and Jacques scored the majority of the baskets for the Tide. Arinn had another career high game with 29 points and three three pointers. Jacques added 12 points to the board and kept the energy up the whole game.  The Alabama Women are now 14-11 overall and 9-9 in conference.  They will be back in action against the UTA women on March 10, at the Wheelchair Basketball College Basketball National Championships in Edinboro, PA.

Written By: Amanda Perrucci – Wheelchair Basketball Beat Writer