The Mary Free Bed Junior Pacers once again captured a national championship at the 2018 National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, and coach Lee Montgomery couldn’t be more proud.
“We had some ups and downs throughout the tournament, but these kids never gave up,” Montgomery said. “They never gave up.”
The Junior Pacers – top seed in the NIT division – on Sunday defeated the Motor City Wheelz 43-41 to clinch the NIT Championship title. The 70th anniversary tournament was held April 12-15 at the Kentucky Exposition Center.
The Junior Pacers, who last year won the national Junior Division Varsity Championship, were led by Gabe DenBraber, a senior from Grand Rapids. DenBraber, who was named Most Valuable Player of the national championship game as well as of the NIT division, will continue his wheelchair basketball career at the University of Illinois.
“Gabe is a good listener and a good teammate,” Montgomery said. “He’s my hero.”
Montgomery also credited the play of Zeke Postema of Holland, who earned second team All-Tournament honors, William Oberg of Sparta and Coleton Butterworth of Hudsonville with leading the Junior Pacers. The team also includes CJ Blackwell of Kentwood, Kaylee Bradeen of Battle Creek, Dalton Budrew of Zeeland, Kaiden Cole of South Haven, Shaun Doss of Hudsonville, David Heynen of Grand Rapids, Braxton Kalkman of Holland, Oksana Parmenter of Pierson, Kaileb Templeton of Grand Rapids, Bennett Twietmeyer of Coopersville and Donny Wingrove of Buchanan.
The team of West Michigan athletes with physical disabilities, who range in age from 14 to 18, is sponsored by Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital’s Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports program. One of the largest programs of its kind in the United States, WAS serves more than 1,200 people annually through competitive teams, clinics, classes and events.
WAS also hosts five annual events, including the upcoming Fifth Third Riverbank Run 25k wheelchair and handcycle races.
More information from about the National Wheelchair Basketball Association tournament can be found here.