St. Luke's wheelchair basketball gushes over weekend win | News
The St. Luke’s Wheelchair Basketball landed at Spokane International Airport Sunday night feeling pretty good after their years of practice and teamwork. The high school and even junior high athletes returned from a weekend trip in Colorado Springs where they earned a solid victory at the national championships, battling through four games, starting at a 5th rank, but finishing first.
Head coach, Tomie Zuchetto, says the co-ed team of physically disabled youth came together, knew their jobs and played as a team.
“Their defense was rock-solid,” Zuchetto said over the phone Monday, her voice a little rough after playing in the U.S. Olympic Training Center where the atmosphere was intense during the competition.
“It felt like the gym was full of people supporting the team, it was so loud. Every time they stole the ball, we had an amazing fan club. The athletes just loved it,” Zuchetto said.
They worked their way through the competition, easily sliding through the first game to a tight second and screaming into overtime during the third. They led the fourth game all the way until the winning end.
Team coordinator, Teresa Skinner, called the games “crazy-intense” and even popped a blood vessel in her eye from screaming so loud. Her voice was just as hoarse. The intensity rivaled leagues beyond St. Luke’s.
“When it comes down to the competition, there’s no difference whether you’re in a wheelchair or you’re Gonzaga,” Skinner said.
This year’s scoring is the highest they have ever gotten, rostering eight out of their 15 players. This is the first win at the national championship. During the seven years of visiting the championship, the highest they had ever ranked prior was 7th.
Next year things could change because three of the players are graduating from high school which is the cut off for playing in the Juniors Division. Skinner says they push junior participants to continue playing into college. There are 14 colleges across the nation that offer full or partial scholarships for wheelchair basketball.
“It’s a huge confidence builder, whether it’s adults of kids,” Skinner said, hoping to recruit more players for future years.
“We should be able to easily yield two to three teams in Spokane,” she added, but noting that there is only one team that caters to young people aged from 6th to 12th grade in all of Eastern Washington. “We want every parent to know that there is this opportunity for their child with a physical disability. There’s no reason why their child can’t play sports.”
In most cases, Skinner says most parents don’t believe their child will be interested in sports.
“They don’t know if they like it until they try it,” Skinner added.
Team St. Luke’s sports program does more than just wheelchair basketball. They have sports for those with physical disabilities ranging from track and field, soccer, swimming, hand-cycling and more. The age requirement is very broad, ranging from 2-102-years-old on their website. The players divide up into the Juniors and Adult division.