By Sgt. Michael S. Cifuentes , Headquarters Marine Corps
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Marines fell to the Army in the first round of the wheelchair basketball games at the 2011 Warrior Games May 17.
The intense 40-minute game ended in a 24-17 victory by the All-Army team, stunning last year’s champions.
However, the Marines said they’re very confident in their team and will continue to be optimistic.
“We’re not as experienced as last year,” said All-Marines’ wheelchair basketball team assistant coach Rodney Williams. “We have just a couple of guys returning from last years’ Warrior Games. Win or lose, this is a tremendous experience and we came to give it our best.”
Wheelchair basketball is a five-on-five game consisting of two 20-minute halves, and each team is required to have two players with lower limb impairments.
The Marines struck first in the game, and maintained a solid 2 to 3-point lead in the first half. And just as most competitions do, the game grew more physical and gripping as the clock ticked down.
“The Army’s here just to take us down,” said Sgt. Stephen Lunt of the All-Marine wheelchair basketball team in pre-game warm-ups.
The Army took the lead just minutes into the second half, and the competition became tougher on both ends. Nonetheless, Marines and Soldiers were still helping one another when players fell off their wheelchairs or plays became dangerous.
“It takes a lot of mental focus to play this game,” said Sgt. Keith Buckmon of the All-Marine wheelchair basketball team. “We can’t complain because we did our best. We’ll see them again.”
The Marines took a rough downfall late in the second half when the All-Army team pushed their lead to more than 10 points and maintained.
Warrior Games wheelchair basketball is a round robin event. All teams will compete against each other and seed based on their standings. The Marines are slated to play the All-Navy/Coast Guard team next on May 18.
Still, the Marines aren’t reluctant to foresee a better game against their rivals if the seeding brings the two teams together again.
Williams said the team exemplifies what Marines are all about — “strong, spirited fighters that never quit.”
“It was a tough game,” said Lance Cpl. Austin Allen of the All-Marine wheelchair basketball team. “They beat us this time …”