The 2015 Matthew Sapolin Memorial Wheelchair Basketball Tournament brought some of the nation’s top wheelchair basketball teams to the Horace Mann School in the Bronx for two days of exciting games. The Bulova Nets won the championship game in thrilling fashion as they defeated the Los Angeles Hotwheels by a score of 57-56. Jonathan Torres took home the MVP plaque as he led the Nets with 17 points in the championship game, including the game-winning free throw with under 10 seconds left. The action started on Saturday with a full slate of preliminary round games. At the end of the day’s games, the Bulova Nets captured the #1 seed as they finished with a 3-0 record. The LA Hotwheels and Nassau Kings earned the #2 and #3 seeds, respectively, as they both finished with records of 2-1, and the New England Blazers entered the playoffs as the #4 seed as they ended Saturday’s games with a 1-2 record. The Brooklyn Nets did not qualify for the playoffs as they failed to pick up a win on Saturday. Sunday’s playoff games kicked off with the two semifinals, which featured the Bulova Nets against the New England Blazers and the LA Hotwheels against the Nassau Kings.
The Bulova Nets maintained their undefeated record thanks to Luis Dalmau who scored 14 points to help his team defeat the Blazers 50- 32. The semifinal between the Nassau Kings and the LA Hotwheels was one of the more exciting contests of the entire weekend as both teams battled hard until the final buzzer. The Kings’ Chris St. Remy was one of the top scorers of the tournament, and he showed it in his team’s semifinal game as he scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half to lead a huge comeback. In the end, it was too little, too late as the LA Hotwheels came away with a 62-60 victory on the heels of 22 points by Manuel Ortega. Those games set the stage for a championship matchup between the Bulova Nets and Los Angeles Hotwheels. The championship game started out with both teams playing tight defense as they each waited patiently for their opportunities. After a somewhat sloppy start, the teams finally started to get a feel for the game. The teams traded baskets and halfway through the first half, the Bulova Nets led the Hotwheels by one point, 16-15. Jonathan Torres and Steve Yedlock led the way for the Nets, but the Hotwheels went on an 11-4 run in the late stages of the first half courtesy of strong play by Manuel Ortega. With less than three minutes left in the half, the Hotwheels held a 28-24 lead, but the Nets were able to surge back with six unanswered points, and the first half came to an end with the Bulova Nets ahead on the scoreboard, 30-28. The game seemed destined to come down to the final buzzer as play continued in the second half. The Hotwheels finally started to turn it on with less than 13 minutes left in the game. They opened up a 13-0 run led by Manuel Ortega and Marcelo Gomez. When the dust settled, the Hotwheels were ahead by a score of 45-36. The momentum shifted very quickly after the 10 minute mark of the half, as the Nets went on a 12-0 run of their own, led by Steve Yedlock, Luis Dalmau, Jonathan Torres and Troy McLeod. When their run ended, the Nets held a 48-45 lead with under six minutes remaining in the game. The Hotwheels battled back to pull within one as time suddenly started to become a factor. With four minutes left in the game, Alex Romero finally made a three pointer for the Hotwheels and gave them a 52-50 lead. Luis Dalmau (Nets) connected on two free throws to pull the game even at 52-52, but Manuel Ortega quickly came back with a layup to give the Hotwheels a 54-52 lead. Steve Yedlock used his size to get an inside position and scored two more points to tie the game at 54. With under two minutes, the Hotwheels used one of their timeouts to devise a play. The play worked well, as Manuel Ortega found Marcelo Garcia underneath the basket for an easy layup, which gave their team a 56-54 lead. The Nets came back down the court and found Jonathan Torres who made a long shot from the top of the key to tie the game at 56. The Hotwheels had an opportunity to take the lead with under a minute left in the game, but they were unable to convert. The Nets grabbed the rebound with a one second differential between the shot clock and game clock. Nets coach Tom McDonald called a timeout with 13 seconds left in the game to discuss their final play. As they came out of the timeout, the Nets found Jonathan Torres who cut through the lane, but was fouled as he put up his shot attempt with six seconds left. The Hotwheels called three consecutive timeouts in an attempt to ice Torres. Torres came to the line and connected on the second of his two free throws to give the Nets a 57-56 lead. The Hotwheels used their final timeout so Coach Max Amanero could come up with a final play. The play ended with a good look from Marcelo Garcia to win the game, but he was unable to make the final shot. The Nets captured the 2015 championship with a 57-56 win over the Los Angeles Hotwheels. Jonathan Torres was named the MVP of the tournament as he led the Nets in scoring in the championship game. Three other players were chosen for the All-Tournament Team based on their play during the weekend: Manuel Ortega of the LA Hotwheels, Steve Davis of the New England Blazers and Chris St. Remy of the Nassau Kings.