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Minnesota Jr. Rolling Timberwolves are National Champions Again!

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Minnesota Jr. Rolling Timberwolves Win Championship, 51-50

The Minnesota Jr. Rolling Timberwolves from the Courage Center of Golden Valley, MN are national champions for varsity wheelchair basketball for the second year in a row. 

Last weekend in Lakewood, Colorado the Wolves went head to head with the best varsity teams in the nation in one of the biggest tournaments of its kind.  The championship game included the same two teams from last year's tourney:  Minnesota Jr. Rolling Timberwolves vs. the San Diego Hammer.

Both teams have seniors that were playing in their final varsity game.  This game was particularly emotional for the three graduating seniors of the Wolves who were playing their last game together.

Minnesota Jr. Rolling Timberwolves

Seniors Connor Downes (left), Chuck Aoki (middle), and Ben Kenyon (right) discuss strategy during timeout vs. San Diego Hammer

This year's championship game came to a thrilling conclusion.  Down 50-49 and with just 14 seconds to go in the game, San Diego had possession of the ball.  As they inbounded the ball, Wolves senior Chuck Aoki pressured the Hammer into an over-and-back foul that turned the ball back over to the Wolves.

Never losing their composure, the Wolves inbounded the ball with 10 seconds remaining and knew they needed to get it to their high-scorer for the day, Connor Downes.

With just 4 seconds left on the clock, MVP Connor Downes (senior) caught a spectacular lob pass from last year's MVP, Ben Kenyon (senior).  Perfectly tossed over the outstretched arms of 2 San Diego defenders, Connor caught the pass down at the baseline and made the winning bucket.  Wolves won 51-50.

Pandemonium ensued after a last second missed shot from the Hammer.  The Wolves piled on top of one another at center court celebrating their victory...wheelchairs flying.

I asked Connor after the game how he felt before that game winning shot.  Spoken like the MVP he was he said, "I just knew I wanted the ball. And when I got the ball, I just wanted to make that shot."Minnesota Jr. Rolling Timberwolves

Minnesota Jr. Rolling Timberwolves National Champs

TNT did a nice news piece on the story yesterday which can be found on the web.  At about 2:12 into the video you can see the winning shot.

It was completely fitting that these 3 seniors each played a key role in those final seconds.  Their friendship and camaraderie have been extraordinary examples of teamwork to the younger players.  They will remember this championship finale forever.

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One Kid's Story

My son, Guthrie, was a rookie on this year's national chamipionship team.  While his playing time was limited in the tournament finals he had the chance to play throughout the 30 games of the season.  Learning from some of the best coaches and players in the country, he feels optimistic about his basketball future.

At the tournament I had a chance to reflect about how he had come to this point.

Born with a syndrome known as arthrogryposis, Guthrie's biggest physical challenges are in his hips, legs and feet.  While he can walk short distances, he uses a wheelchair to get around most of the time.

I remember one night putting him to bed when he was just about 4 years old and we were saying prayers together.  Before I left the room he asked me, "Does God walk?"

I know parents are supposed to have all the answers, but this was a tough one.  At that young age he already knew that he would be using a wheelchair in his life.

I remember saying, "Yes, God walks.  And He pushes a wheelchair, too.  He's confined to a hospital bed, and He runs, too.   I guess God really does everything all kids do."

That satisfied him for the night.  He's always been a kid who takes a remarkably positive perspective in life.

Wheelchair Basketball


When Guthrie was 9, he was already involved with the Courage Center.  He had tried wheelchair racing and track and field.  At one of the races, the JV coach, George, approached him and told him about basketball.  Ever since, it's been his sole focus in sports.

Minnesota Jr. Rolling Timberwolves

Guthrie likes to remind me how naïve I was at the time.  I thought somehow wheelchair basketball must require smaller courts and shorter baskets.  I couldn't really see how someone could make a basket from a moving wheelchair.

Of course, he's proven me wrong.  The game is played on regulation sized courts and hoops.  All the same enthusiasm and intensity exists in wheelchair basketball as non-wheelchair basketball.  As you watch the game, you really forget the distinction.

With fewer available teams to play against it does involve a significant amount of travel.  This year we went to San Diego, Wisconsin, Chicago, and Colorado for various tournaments.  The practice and game time require a lot of commitment as some of the kids need to travel several hours to the practice and game locations.

 

 

Guthrie Lindquist at the National Championship Tournament in Lakewood, CO

 

A couple of years ago, we asked Guthrie, "If you could be born again with healthy legs would you like that?"

He scoffed at us and said,  "What, are you crazy?  I wouldn't be able to play wheelchair basketball!"

Courage Center

This is how Courage Center has impacted my son's life.  Through the sports program he has developed a strong sense of self and a championship attitude.  His story is only one of nine on this team, and only one of thousands that Courage Center has touched.

The kids, coaches, and parents from all the teams are champions in my book.

I am forever thankful to the Courage Center for the programs and support they offer.  Their program has had a huge impact in my son's life and is helping prepare him for the world.

If you know of anyone who is physically challenged, be sure to encourage them to contact Courage Center for the wide variety of programs they offer.

Comments(2)

Michael O'Donnell
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Arizona Properties - Scottsdale, AZ
GRI, ePRO, Accessible Homes

Peter,

Thanks for sharing.  Hope we can stay in touch, as it seems our concerns in life and real estate are very similar.

Mike

Nov 14, 2009 03:47 AM
Michael O'Donnell
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Arizona Properties - Scottsdale, AZ
GRI, ePRO, Accessible Homes

Peter,

Thanks for sharing.  Hope we can stay in touch, as it seems our concerns in life and real estate are very similar.

Mike

Nov 14, 2009 03:48 AM