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Courtesy of Alabama Adapted Athletics, Christopher Lee

The season is coming to an end as well as the careers of several collegiate athletes. However, not before making one final push at a national championship.

The Alabama wheelchair basketball teams are preparing for its final home tournament of the season when it hosts the UA Early College Classic, Friday and Saturday. The tournament that will showcase the nations best teams will also celebrate the seniors.

This senior class has seen a lot of changes to the program from playing games in the rec center on the edge of campus to inside Stran-Hardin Arena. They have witnessed the program get better each year with the level of play and, they continue to be significant contributors to making the program the powerhouse it is now.

Senior Jordan Bartley, a native of Australia, has been through all the changes and wants to leave knowing the seniors have left their mark.

“Five players are leaving from this program,” Bartley said. “You look at how much the program as a whole has grown. The facility we have now, I think it’s one thing to look back and say we went to back-to-back national championships but to leave and know that the program has seen these incredible growths and see how big the game of basketball has become at Alabama is incredible.”

Bartley is one of five players who is graduating on the team including Lindy Bridges, Rashad Bennett, Michael Auprince, Ryan Morich, and Dequel Robinson. Karina Keck and Arinn Young are the lone seniors on the women’s team.

Alabama is coming off a three-game sweep in the Powerade Invitation with the men winning one game and the women winning two. This weekend, however, is different; the tournament will feature teams that are chasing the same dream as Alabama.

The women look for redemption after falling in the national championships last year, 65-55 to the University of Texas-Arlington. For the men, they seek to win back-to-back titles, last year beating the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater 69-65.

For the Crimson Tide it’s about the process, and making sure the team’s chemistry is in sync come March. Win or lose Alabama will be traveling to Illinois for the national championships, but it’s important the team is consistent in all area’s. The team knows what to expect; they know how to handle the pressure; now, it’s about execution at the highest level.

“As much as this tournament might be big, nationals is always bigger,” Auprince said.

It’s easy to label this weekend just a tournament of games, but it’s much more than that. The freshman and underclassman will return next year, but for the seniors, this is it. One last ride in Stran-Hardin Arena.

The feeling is bittersweet; four years of memories get put into this one moment. On Saturday, the seniors will be recognized for everything they have put into the program and everything they continue to do for the players that follow them.

It’s the proper sendoff.

Categories: Sports