Team Alberta takes wheelchair basketball gold

Team Alberta edges Team Ontario in 51-48 thriller

Alberta’s wheelchair basketball team won a 51-48 nail-biter to take Canada Winter Games gold in front of a raucous crowd at Red Deer College.

The game came down to the final buzzer with Ontario’s three-point attempt failing to sink in the dying seconds.

Alberta coach Darrell Nordell said the game was like a “poker game” and was pretty much what he expected.

“We’ve played them tight three times this year,” said the Edmontonian. “I told the kids this is what’s going to happen. It’s going to be within three to five points.

“I knew exactly what was going to happen.”

The score see-sawed all game long, with neither team opening up anything close to a big lead at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.

After the first quarter, Ontario was up 14-9 but at the half it was Alberta in the lead 25-20. That lead had narrowed to 39-37 for Alberta after the third quarter, setting up a thrilling final quarter.

The lead was 49-45 with 19 seconds left when Ontario hit a huge three-pointer.

But thanks to a pair of clutch free throws Alberta hung on for the win.

“When you’ve got a bunch of young kids, (for) some of them (it’s) the first time in front of a crowd like this, to be able to control their emotions and play within the game, that’s what excites me the most,” said Nordell.

“We have future Paralympians at this tournament and they have this experience now to take them forward to the Paralympics.”

The crowd was announced as the biggest to attend a sporting event at Red Deer College’s athletics facility. Every seat was filled and the second-floor rail was lined with cheering fans.

“The City of Red Deer has done such a great job with this Canada Games,” said Nordell. “We’ve been supported since day one. More people keep coming out. I hope we can grow the sport of wheelchair basketball in Canada.”

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