Tide brings home third straight national titleBy Jasmine Cannon | 03/30/2011 9:02am
The Crimson Tide women’s wheelchair basketball team defeated The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater 58-56 in Arlington, Texas, to claim its third straight national championship last week.
“It was a really good game for us,” head coach Brent Hardin said. “I really felt like we controlled the tempo of the game, and the game was played the way we wanted it to be played. The pace was what we wanted. We switched defenses on them a lot. We felt like we had control of the game. I’m just real proud of the team. I thought they played a great game, and they put us in position to win.”
“This year was even sweeter because no one wanted us to win; but yet we went out there and still did what we needed to do and we still took care of business and we won,” said Kimberly Champion, president of the club.
The championship was the fifth time that the two teams met this season. The teams went 2-2 against each other, with Alabama’s last two regular season conference losses coming from the Warhawks. UW-Whitewater proved to be Alabama’s toughest competition this season.
“After our last loss to [UW-Whitewater] at home we all met as a team,” Hardin said. “We looked each other in the eye and we committed to becoming a different team when they saw us again. We had a big list of things that we were going to do, that we were going to change, that would make us a different team when they saw us again. And they did it.”
The score was tied seven times during the game, and both teams took turns leading the game. The Tide went into halftime up by three after the Warhawks sunk a 3-pointer before the end of the first half.
Alabama never trailed after halftime and were up by as many as 12 points before sealing the deal on another championship victory. Karolina Lingyte led the Tide with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Elisha Williams pulled in a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Cindy Oulette and Katie Harnock both scored 10 points, while Oulette also accounted for 6 assists. Emily Seelenfruend led the Tide on the defensive end, shutting down UW-Whitewater’s shooting.
“I definitely got nervous in the second half whenever they started coming back because they are a really good team,” Champion said. “I never got scared that we weren’t going to win. I was very proud of our players because they never let up for a minute. Seelenfruend dominated. She shut down their best shooter and it was awesome. Even though we kind of let them come back, we stayed together and we stayed focused and we finished the game.”
This was the third time in four years the team made it to the national championship game. The team’s first title came in 2009, only six years after the team’s inception. Hardin said this year was very much different from the past two championship runs.
This year’s team started five players who were not starters on the 2009 squad and who include only one senior. Many critics thought the Tide would not win the championship this year because of player losses from a year ago.
“Every team’s special,” Hardin said. “This team was really special to me because of how hard they worked throughout the year and how much they improved throughout the year. We had a lot of players in brand new roles. This was a really young group, a new group. It was great to see how much they improved. That’s what I’ll remember most—how hard they worked to improve from the beginning of the year to the championship.”