Undefeated hoops champs

By Adam Reed

March 30, 2016

The UW-Whitewater men’s Wheelchair basketball team capped off an undefeated season, winning its third-consecutive national title on March 12 in Edinboro, Pennsylvania.

The victory against the University of Alabama in the championship game marks the fifth time in the last six years the Warhawks have won the championship, and the 13th time the team has won it all in the program’s history.

“We played as a solid team,” senior Dave Fleming said. “I wouldn’t say it was a perfect game, but it was definitely a great game and a great team effort.”

After defeating the University of Illinois, 64-53 and Arizona State University, 95-62, the team completed its season by defeating the University of Alabama, 73-55.

Senior Derrick Bisnett led the way for the Warhawks, scoring a combined 80 points over the course of the tournament, including 30 in the championship round. Bisnett also tallied 25 rebounds and 46 assists over the course of the tournament, and was named the most valuable player for his efforts.

“I think it was the best game of the season,” Bisnett said. “I think we played our best game in the national championship game. We really didn’t settle for jump shots or anything like that. We worked the ball around and used the shot clock and made sure that every shot we took was a good shot for us.”

Bisnett said he was proud of how his teammates stepped up at crucial times, and cited contributions from graduate student AJ Messmer, junior Kyle Picchetti and freshman John Michael Schwartz as key to the team’s success down the stretch.

Fleming and sophomore Christian Siedel also contributed double-digit scoring totals in all three games during the                           tournament. Fleming finished with a combined 45 points, 21 rebounds and five assists, and Siedel added 42 points, 16 rebounds and five assists of his own.

“I look at it [my role] as I try to do what I need to do for the team,” Fleming said. “If that means at times being more of a leader, or taking more of a backseat at times. I just do what I can to help the team out as best as I can.”

The Warhawks outperformed each of the three teams they faced in almost every single statistical category for the tournament. They held advantages over each team in points in the paint, second chance points, points off the bench, points at the line, field goal percentage and total rebounds.

Opponents did outscore the Warhawks form three-point range by a combined score of 51-0; however, the Warhawks shied away from long-distance shots, attempting only one during the entire tournament.

The Warhawks emerged victorious this year as the only NCAA Division-III team in the tournament. The Illini, Sun Devils and Crimson Tide are all part of Division-I programs which regularly find themselves on the national stage, but the Warhawks have several players with multiple national titles under their belt.

“Some of our biggest battles came in practice, just trying to reach our potential as a team,” Bisnett said. “Along the road our record didn’t show as much of the struggle or adversity that we overcame as a team. There’s more going on behind the scenes than our record shows. So I’m proud of our team for what they overcame.”

The Warhawks will be missing some of the leadership and experience they had next year. Bisnett and Messmer will not return, while seniors like Fleming, Sam White, Luke Russell and Jordan Scheidecker will look to retain their eligibility for one more year.

“The future of Whitewater wheelchair basketball is super bright,” Bisnett said. “The young guys that we brought in this year and the young guys we are bringing in next year are great additions … I think the university should be really proud of the team they have going forward. Not only with their ability on the court, but also how they carry themselves.”

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