WHITEWATER, Wisconsin — The University of Alabama women’s wheelchair basketball team won its fifth national championship today.
UA (16-6) defeated the University of Texas at Arlington 57-48, avenging a 72-49 loss at home in February at the National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament.
UA held UTA’s leading scorer Rose Hollerman to 14 points and no 3-pointers. Hollerman scored 39 points against UA in the previous meeting.
“Hollerman literally does it all for UTA – handles the ball, posts up, shoots 3s, all of which she did against us a few weeks ago,” said Adam Lancia, UA women’s head coach. “We didn’t want her to get easy looks.”
UA’s last national title was in 2015. This season’s title is the first for Lancia, who was hired as head coach in May 2016.
UA’s Arrin Young had game-highs of 22 points and seven rebounds, while freshman Barbara Gross had 20 points and two assists.
UA freshman Jamey Jewells had a team-high four assists. She said the team showed a different defense than it used in the first meeting against UTA.
“After our home tournament and even before that, we practiced how we would defend (Hollerman),” Jewells said. “Today, we ran a different press-break and a different defense than we’d run against anyone this year. Though it was something different, we were confident with the things we were going to do and mindful of how strong our training was, both as individuals and collectively, to pull it off.”
UA faced another dominant scorer in the semifinals against Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Mariska Beijer and held her to 10 points in a 51-41 win.
“Beijer is one of the top 5 players in the world,” Lancia said. “Going in, we thought, if we hold her to 20 points, that’s a win.”
The team-approach to defending a single player isn’t easy to pull off, but if a team communicates well and trusts one another, it can be done, Gross said.
“It’s always difficult if you have a really strong player that’s surrounded by good players, where the second and third threat aren’t that far away from her [in talent],” Gross said. “But when the communication is working really good, the defense can figure it out. We picked the right time for everything to come together the way it did.”
Jewells, who retired from the Canadian National Team this year, is in her first year with the program. She said she’s proud to continue the pipeline of Canadian players winning championships at Alabama.
“It’s kind of become a bit of a legacy for Canadians to go through this program,” Jewells said. “Today’s win is a reminder that we’re not just playing for ourselves, we’re playing for the entire program, people we haven’t even met. It’s an incredible feeling.”
UA’s men’s team finished third in the national tournament following a 57-47 win over Illinois Saturday.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.