Fundraiser helps roll to nationals

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More than 50 local supporters got the opportunity to test their wheelchair basketball skills at the Parkside Activities Center in Wellman on Saturday.

The center hosted a three-on-three wheelchair basketball tournament fundraiser for the SportAbility of Iowa Rolling Panthers team.

“They’re the only team in the state of Iowa registered with the National Wheelchair Basketball Association,” said Shelli Stafford, whose son, Jayden, plays on the 13-and-under team. “We travel and play competitively throughout the Midwest.”

Money raised from Saturday’s event went to help pay expenses for the Rolling Panthers.

“Our 13-and-under team qualified for the national tournament in Wichita, Kansas, next weekend,” Stafford said. “The proceeds are going toward travel expenses, equipment and upkeep.”

The national tournament runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

In all, 16 teams took part in Saturday’s tournament, with each player paying $25 to play.

“They were all trying out wheelchair basketball for the first time,” Stafford said.

Before play began, Rolling Panther team members gave participants pointers on how to play wheelchair basketball.

Some of the tips included how to use a wheel to help raise the basketball off the floor, how to use the wheelchair to legally block an opponent and the rule that players get two pushes on their wheels before having to dribble the ball.

Teams faced off against each other in eight-minute continuous clock halves, with Rolling Panther members serving as referees.

The top team, the Deputy Dawgs led by Washington County Sheriff Jared Schneider, then faced off against the Rolling Panthers.

The Rolling Panthers easily routed the Deputy Dawgs.

Stafford said that the event raised over $3,000 for the Rolling Panthers.

“We had a tremendous amount of support,” she said. “Everybody we talked to said they’re ready to do it again.

“Hopefully next year, it’ll be even bigger.”

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