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Movin' Mavs
UT Arlington's wheelchair basketball team wins 7th national championship

Michael Paye congratulates coach Jim Hayes
Michael Paye congratulates coach Jim Hayes after the Movin' Mavs' win over Wisconsin-Whitewater in the title game of the National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Association Tournament. (Photo: The Shorthorn, Dominic Bracco)

Michael Paye, the dogged veteran on a young Movin’ Mavs team, had seen all this before. The energized crowd. The nervous excitement. The  national title game hanging on a last-second shot.

Only this time the ending was different.

Last year, UT Arlington’s wheelchair basketball team came up one shot short in its quest for a record seventh National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Association title, losing to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in Texas Hall. Paye, a U.S. Paralympian in 2004, missed a 15-foot shot that would have won the title.

So when the two teams met for a title-game rematch this April—the final game of Paye’s college career—it was something of a perfect script.

And Paye was something of a hero.

His team-best 16 points and sophomore David Gonzales’ last-second bucket helped the Movin’ Mavs beat Wisconsin-Whitewater, 55-53, to take their seventh title.

UT Arlington (24-1) trailed for much for the second half, including twice by double digits, but chipped its way back and took the lead with 90 seconds to go. With 10 seconds left, Whitewater tied the score.

That set up the Paye-to-Gonzales heroics. Paye took the ball off the inbounds pass and dribbled to midcourt, where three defenders met him.

“Everybody in that gym thought Mikey was going to take a three-pointer and win it,” Movin’ Mavs coach Jim Hayes said. And why not? Paye had the ball in his hands with the title on the line in 2005. He’s the star.

But he gave it up.

With the defense focused on Paye, Gonzales slipped free on the left wing. Paye’s pass was true, and Gonzales’ calm catch-and-release shot swished through as time expired.

“It was unbelievable,” Gonzales said. “The shot felt great.”

For Paye, who had 40 friends and family members at the game, it marked the perfect ending to a near-perfect career. He exhausted his eligibility by being named first-team All-American for the third time and national Most Valuable Player.

“It was like a dream come true,” he said.

— Danny Woodward

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