CEDAR FALLS — Youth wheelchair basketball teams from five states will be coming to the Cedar Valley this weekend for a conference tournament.
The junior division of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s Northern Conference tournament will be held Saturday and Sunday at FIT Courts, 924 Viking Road in Cedar Falls. The division includes youths under age 18, with prep (under 13) and varsity teams. The tournament is free and open to the public.
SportAbility of Iowa, which provides opportunities for people with physical disabilities to participate in adapted sports, is hosting the event. The nonprofit group sponsors the Rolling Panthers, one of the teams that will be in the tournament.
The Rolling Panthers grew out of SportAbility’s annual Adapted Sports Camp at the University of Northern Iowa and is the state’s first and only youth wheelchair basketball team. Its 11 members come from across Iowa.
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“These kids represent the whole state of Iowa, so that’s pretty neat,” said Melinda Beland, the team’s representative and a SportAbility board member. She noted that the Rolling Panthers prep team, ranked 10th nationally, has a friendly rivalry with Nebraska’s third-ranked Red Dawgs. The Rolling Panthers beat the Nebraska team last weekend.
This is only the second time the tournament has been hosted in Iowa, according to organizers. Teams will travel from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Missouri to participate. More than 100 athletes will compete for a chance to qualify for the NWBA Varsity and Prep National Tournament March 13-15 in Wichita, Kan.
Games get underway at 8 a.m. Saturday and continue until 3 p.m. Sunday. Find details online by searching “SportAbility of Iowa” on Facebook.com.
Athletes have to meet league eligibility requirements to participate on teams. Qualifying abilities include some of the following diagnoses: spinal cord injury, polio, spina bifida, paraplegic, amputee, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and other permanent lower limb injuries/disabilities. Non-daily wheelchair users with a diagnosis may qualify, as well.
For more details, to be a sponsor or to volunteer contact firstname.lastname@example.org.Photos: Northern Iowa Vs. Missouri State