Wheelchair basketball finals this weekend

Once you see a 6'2" basketball player with one leg make an incredible lay-up from his wheelchair, the word “disability” doesn’t hold quite the same meaning.

Carmel Valley will play host to that kind of awe-inspiring ability when wheelchair basketball teams from all over the country compete in the third annual West Coast Regional Finals at Canyon Crest Academy this weekend.

The San Diego Adapted Sports Foundation (SDASF) and the Del Mar-Solana Beach Sunrise Rotary are sponsors of the free event held Jan. 10 and 11, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

While talented squads will battle all weekend long, the match-up not to be missed is Sunday at 2:30 p.m., when San Diego’s own Hammers, the number two team in the nation, goes up against the number one team from Minnesota.

“We’re gunning for them,” said Marla Knox, SDASF executive director. “We haven’t beaten them in 10 attempts.”

The champion not only gets bragging rights but will move on to the national tournament in Seattle later this year.

Hammer time

The San Diego Adapted Sports Foundation is a countywide organization that offers sports programs for physically limited athletes from age four through adulthood. Through the league, athletes play indoor soccer, quad rugby, tennis and wheelchair softball. Camps and clinics are also offered.

Participating in sports is not only great exercise but builds self-esteem in a comfortable “inclusive” environment, Knox said.

The Hammers have a roster of nine players, all in high school, from all over the county and some from beyond. One player travels two hours twice a week from San Jacinto to play ball, an important part in his recovery from a recent accident.

“I think that people will enjoy meeting the players and hearing their stories and how they persevere,” Rotarian Vicky Mallett said.

Mallett and the Del Mar-Solana Beach Sunrise Rotary Club decided to bring this inspiring tournament to Carmel Valley after volunteering for the event last year.

“It’s just a fantastic program,” Mallett said. “We were amazed at the athletic ability and the level of play.”

Amazement is a common reaction to the watching the Hammers play, Knox said.

Knox said they play fast and rough - in their quest to win, bodies go flying and some even fall out of their chairs.

The league is different from the Special Olympics, where everyone is a winner, Knox said. “You lose sometimes and you win sometimes,” Knox said. “It’s an important life lesson for them to learn.”

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