Men are champs again

March 11, 2015 By Ryan Altman

When Jeremy Lade took over as head coach of eight-time men’s wheelchair basketball national champions UW-Whitewater in 2008, he envisioned adding more titles, but not necessarily at the pace it had happened.

Following a semi-final victory last Friday over host University of Missouri, the ’Hawks defeated the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) on Saturday, 68-55, to bring home their fifth National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament title in the last eight years, and 13th overall in program history.

“It’s definitely an imaginable position,” Lade said.

The ’Hawks (27-5 overall) jumped out to a 36-21 first half lead on the Fighting Illini and never looked back. They held Illinois to 28 percent from the field in the first half, and 32 percent overall.

Senior Derrick Bisnett stuffed the box score, scoring 36 points off 13-of-18 shooting to go along with seven rebounds.

Bisnett also added to his collection of national awards, taking home Academic All-American, First-Team All-American and 2014-2015 NIWBT Player of the Year honors.

The Fighting Illini cut the ’Hawks lead to nine, 62-53, after capitalizing on several missed free throws with just over three minutes remaining. But Bisnett eventually found a rhythm at the charity stripe. He finished 10-of-13 from the line, closing out a ’Hawks victory.

“I try to focus on the same things each time [at the free-throw line],” Bisnett said. “Lining up the ball, following through and steady breathing, things I work on all year.”

Junior Dave Fleming added 15 points, while freshman Kyle Gribble tallied 10 points and eight rebounds.

After several lineup changes contributed to a 1-2 start and some early season struggles in developing consistent court cohesiveness, Bisnett said the ’Hawks focused on building team chemistry.

“We all came together and talked about the things we needed to do to become successful,” Bisnett said. “Before, there was a lot of individual movement on the floor and by the end of the season, it all culminated in the championship game.”

The newly-formed cohesiveness resulted in a stretch where the ’Hawks lost just one of its last 18 regular season games.

While playing Missouri on Friday, the ’Hawks shot nearly 57 percent (13-23) from the field to gain a 30-23 lead entering halftime.

The ’Hawks defense was efficient in the second half, limiting the Tigers to only 11 points on 5-of-24 (20.8 percent) shooting. They also held a large advantage on the boards, out-rebounding the Tigers 45-19.

Bisnett recorded a triple-double (10 pts/11 rebs/11 ast), while Gribble led the ’Hawks with a game-high 16 points.

“This was our only experience going in as the No. 1 seed playing Missouri in the semifinal,” Lade said. “All our focus was on playing to our full potential. Once we got by, we were pretty excited to face either team [Illinois or University of Texas-Arlington] and the guys knew they could get it done.”

Bisnett is already excited about the team’s hunt for a 14th national championship as he will be returning for his fifth and final year of eligibility.

“This group of guys was one of the most fun teams I’ve ever played on,” Bisnett said. “The atmosphere, the camaraderie, it’s hard to put into words.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email