Movin’ Mavs win ninth national title in wheelchair basketball
Amit Vigoda, selected as the tournament’s most valuable player, led UTA with 26 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists.
Carrington Marendes added 17 points and six assists. Aaron Summerill contributed 13 points and 10 rebounds, plus four assists. Vincent Dallaire, named to the all-tournament team, scored eight points, with five assists and three rebounds.
UTA lost four starters from last year’s top-ranked squad and entered this season with an inexperienced starting lineup that included three freshmen and a sophomore. The team also included players from Israel and Canada.
UTA coach Doug Garner said his team’s mood was “joyous and celebratory” as they headed back to Arlington from Tuscaloosa, Ala., site of the tournament.
“It’s been great seeing all of these differences come together in a team,” Garner said. “We had age differences, philosophical differences and cultural differences. We had to mold together all these parts in just a few tournaments. These players were willing to put in the work.”
The national tournament was the first action for UTA since January, with the February schedule upended by winter storms. Garner said the team’s national semifinal game against Southwest Minnesota State was a wakeup call after the Mustangs cut an 18-point lead down to five before UTA pulled away.
“We really needed that game against Southwest Minnesota State to get us back into game mode,” Garner said. “It really helped us refocus and get back our competitive edge.”
The team finished with a record of 8-0 in a 2020-21 season cut short by both the COVID-19 pandemic and winter storms and power outages. In a typical season, the team would play between 25 and 30 games. It was the team’s first national championship since 2017 and Garner’s second overall.
“Once the final buzzer hit zero in the national championship game, tears of joy and excitement came right after,” said Alex “AJ” Hummer, a junior on the team. “We just all started hugging each other and yelling because we accomplished something greater than anything we could do by ourselves—because without one another, we would never be national champs.”
The title comes a year after the Movin’ Mavs lost the opportunity to play for the championship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They were 22-1 a season ago, including 14-0 in NWBA Intercollegiate Division games, when the remainder of the season was canceled.
“To be the ninth national champs at UTA puts us in quite a special place in the history books of this program,” Hummer said. “There have been tons of legends who have come through this program to make it what it is today, and maybe someday future athletes will look back on our team and say that about us.”
Topias Tyni was named honorable mention Academic All-American for the Movin’ Mavs.
Lady Movin’ Mavs
The Lady Movin’ Mavs came one win short of a national title, falling 67-53 to Alabama in the women’s national championship game.
Elizabeth Becker, Elodie Tessier and Alexus Cook were named to the all-tournament team. Tessier also was named to the Academic All-American Team, while Becker was honorable mention Academic All-American.