News: Marines, Army rebound with wheelchair basketball
Story by Christine Cabalo
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Wounded Marines and soldiers battled in a game of fast-moving wheelchair basketball at the Army base’s Martinez Physical Fitness Center, July 11.
The Army team surged to victory with a last-minute push to score, winning 32 to 29. Players who are still in service and those who are medically retired were invited to the game at the Army’s home court.
“We keep up good cooperation and communication with the Army wounded warriors,” said Gunnery Sgt. Curt Collins, an operations chief for the Wounded Warrior Battalion West – Detachment Hawaii. “They’re always welcome to compete against our guys in any event.”
Several Army players credit part of their win to having visiting player Anthony Pone on their team. Pone is a retired Army specialist and Warrior Games multi-gold medalist. He has faced the Marine Corps wheelchair basketball team in several final matches of the Warrior Games and won.
“Whenever you’re up against the Marines, you know it will be a very competitive game,” said Pone, a Philadelphia native who now lives in Dallas. “We had a good game against them.”
Pone played traditional basketball before his right leg was amputated above the knee, but got into wheelchair basketball while attending the University of Texas at Arlington. He was in Hawaii for a visit before traveling to play professional wheelchair games in Tampa, Fla. and France.
Pfc. Joshua Kelly, a Marine who injured his right foot and left ankle in 2009, said his team went into the game with Pone in their sights.
“We knew Anthony was playing and planned our defense around him,” said Kelly, a native of Saint Croix Falls, Wis. “We tried to isolate him and minimize him getting shots.”
The Marines snagged an early lead of 14-10, relying on tight teamwork to pass, block and score. Just as the Army team would pick up speed and points, the Marines found a way to land another basket.
“We used a lot of the tips we’ve had from the Warrior Games and the Marine Corps Trials experience to play strong,” said Rachel Barbieto, the detachment’s Warrior Athlete Reconditioning Program manager.
The two teams would trade the lead until the game’s final minutes. With just a few points separating them, the Army clinched key points to win.
“Our team had emotion and intensity,” Pone said. “Coming down to the wire, we relied on our key instincts.”
After the match, Kelly said his team did well but had problems locking down other shooters. Next time he’ll be focused on an entire team.
Kelly, who has competed in the Marine Corps Trials three times, said he felt pride in playing. The game was the first time his mother and grandmother seen him play.
“I’ve competed my whole life, both in the Marine Corps and outside of it,” Kelly said. “With wheelchair basketball, I’m able to compete again and it’s a is a good driving force.”
Army and Marine teams in Hawaii have duked it out in other sports including seated volleyball and outrigger canoeing. Kelly was among the Marines who challenged the Army during their 2010 visit to Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Although Kelly never played basketball growing up, the sport is now one of several ways he stays active.
“Wheelchair basketball is a challenging sport and definitely unique,” Kelly said. “The sport is something you may have already played before, but it’s fun learning how to play it again just in a different way.”
Kelly is working to set up more games with other groups.
With future matches, Kelly said he’d like to see even more players give wheelchair basketball a shot.