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London Repeats in Tampa

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This past January, the 24th Annual Tampa International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament was held. This year’s tournament featured two club teams from Canada, the Swiss national team, and five U.S. club teams.

On opening day, the London Annihilators, led by Paralympians Dave Willsie and Garrett Hickling showed why they were the #1 seed by easily cruising past the Brooks Bandits and Shepherd Smash. The tournament host Tampa Generals took a beating in their first game against Switzerland, but rebounded from that loss to later beat St. Louis by 10, who was without Team USA class 2.0, Eric Newby. The final game of the day was Shepherd versus Lakeshore. This game was close for a half, but in the beginning of the 3rd quarter, Shepherd went on a 3-goal run led by Rob Deller and Shepherd would continue to pull away. Lakeshore would lose a lot more than just the game as their star player Clayton Brackett injured his hand late in the game and would be unable to play the remainder of the weekend.

Day two featured what would be the most exciting game of the tournament between the interstate rival Tampa Generals and Brooks Bandits. Tampa started out fast with a 2-goal lead to end the first quarter, however Brooks was able to regroup and by the end of the third quarter, had not only erased the deficit, but developed a 3-goal lead. Tampa, in front of a large home crowd and with their backs against the wall, forced three straight turnovers with a minute remaining and tied the game with 8 seconds left to force overtime. By the end of the third overtime, Tampa being led by Shin Nakazato’s game high 36 goals would prevail 58-57. The other games of the day went as expected with London easily beating Ottawa and Switzerland edging out Shepherd in the crossover games.

Sunday morning started off with Brooks getting their first win of the tournament against St. Louis to finish in 7th place. Tampa easily handled Lakeshore who was without either of their high pointers to finish 5th. In the semifinal, Ottawa jumped out to an early lead against Shepherd and never looked back to finish 3rd. The showdown at noon between the two undefeated teams, Switzerland and London turned out to be very anticlimactic. London dominated from the opening whistle and would win the game 55-42 to take home their second Tampa International title in as many years.

This tournament would not have been possible without the support of Tampa General Hospital, Paralympic Sport Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County Sports, Recreation, and Conservation Department, and all the volunteers.

February 5, 2016 — 3:04am