February, 2008

Texas Thunder Invitational

The Texas Stampede hosted the first annual Texas Thunder Invitational at St. Stephens Episcopal School in Austin Texas. The tourney featured members of statewide club teams as well as Paralympic Team USA members.

Round Robin play was centered on development and upcoming post season play. Some of the key match ups featured Division II hopefuls Pasadena and San Antonio going head to head as well as previously defeated Texas (lost to San Antonio and Pasadena in 07) trying to find their winning form again.

In the Pasadena v San Antonio tests, it was evident that advancement to Louisville would be front and center on the minds of both squads. Pasadena led by former Team USA member Steve Kearley rallied both newcomer Tim (Mike) Jones and veterans Alan Bailey and Mike Peacock against a seasoned San Antonio line featuring Juan and Gil Garcia and the 1.5 work of Ramos and Boothby.

The first game saw the two heavy weights exchanges goals at an up-tempo pace. The first turnover caused at 3:14 was caused by a stifling Ryder defense which caused the hurried pass from Bailey (6 points in the game) to Peacock to go off the waiting gloves. While the first quarter saw the score 10 – 9, the teams continued the stepped up pace. San Antonio went to their bench and took advantage of skilled low pointer Landon “Lando” Groff and his sticky front end to hold Pasadena’s high pointers. As the teams entered the half several unforced turnovers saw Pasadena fall behind 17 – 23. The 3rd and 4th saw several runs by both sides, however in the end the Ryder’s were too much for the Texans taking the first match 45 – 38.

The next big match was the Stampede B team meeting San Antonio. Stampede B led behind Paralympian Mark Zupan and Jace Beck (Team USQRA) showed up ready as they jumped up early against the hi/low line of Garcia and Huizar. Texas held a 15 – 8 lead going into the 2nd where they expanded there charge to 28 – 14. Said James Gumbert “It was a great opportunity for our veterans to play with the new guys and gain valuable court time”. The Stampede was able to expand their lead in the second half winning the game 55 to 36. Zupan whose game high 35 points was a season high was joined by Beck (12 points) for accounting for the majority of the team's effort.

Fresh off the Stampede B win, the entire Stampede team divided to play one another. New vs Old, Present vs Future it was all there to be counted as the players who beat the heck out of one another in practice, played for bragging rights. The A’s lead by Zupan and Lyduch took on Honl, Beck, and veteran Hogsett of the B’s. In a classic match the youth of tomorrow proved it had game for a half but the wisdom of A’s experience showed there was no changing of the guard today. A’s win 47 – 39. B member Jesie “Beekeeper” Honl.(17 points in the match) said “We could not stop Zupan, he was too much for us today”. “We want a rematch”!

Rematch indeed as the tournament came to a close. The Texas “conference” which usually sees one another up to 4 times a year is already planning the next test games. A big thank you goes to tournament director Kelly Gumbert, the Staff and administration at St Stephens, Mark Zupan and the great people at Wahoo’s, Texas State volunteers and the athletes and staff of the Stampede who helped in hosting this sporting event.

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