Cambridge sports fans can head over the Kaimai Ranges this weekend to catch all the action at the NZ Wheelchair Basketball Nationals in Tauranga, with a trio of locals taking part.
Wheelchair athletes Maioro Barton and CJ Takiari will take to the court for the Waikato A team, while Ryan Branje will play for Waikato B in the tournament at the QE2 Stadium in Tauranga.
The competition will be fierce, with the Waikato A team recently beating three-time defending champions Auckland A by a resounding 57 – 73 to be crowned the 2018 North Island Champions. No doubt the Auckland team will have a score to settle. Maioro said the Auckland crowd during that match were particularly vocal, with an uproar from the crowd whenever Waikato star player Sheldon Larsen got the ball. “We would like some local supporters to come over and even the odds,” Maioro said.
How does wheelchair basketball work?
In wheelchair basketball, the five players on the court have different levels of functional ability, with each being given a score from one to 4.5 (4.5 being the most functional), Maioro, who has a score of two points, explained.
The combined score of players on the court must not exceed 14, meaning teams cannot be stacked with physically capable players. “That makes it a lot fairer,” Maioro said. In the recent North Island champs there were no twos or lower who could replace him, so Maioro ended up playing every minute of the tournament. He’s hoping for some more “low pointers” at this weekend’s competition so it doesn’t happen again. Just as with able-bodied basketball, players must not travel with the ball – they must throw or bounce the ball with every two pushes of their wheelchair. Any player who is not able to play basketball standing up due to physical disability is eligible to play, although some players don’t use wheelchairs in their daily lives.