Stan Simpson goes after a loose ball in the fourth annual Ultimate Basketball Challenge (Photo by Mark Cowan).
April 15, 2009
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The fourth annual Ultimate Basketball Challenge was a resounding success, with approximately 800 fans turning out to support the Illinois men's and women's basketball teams and wheelchair basketball teams for a charity event at Huff Hall. The Ultimate Basketball Challenge served as a joint fundraiser for the wheelchair teams and Coaches vs. Cancer.
The rosters were evenly split into two teams with representatives from each of the four Illini teams on each. Head men's basketball coach Bruce Weber and head men's wheelchair basketball coach Mike Frogley coached the Orange team, while head women's basketball coach Jolette Law and head women's wheelchair basketball coach Patty Cisneros served as head of the Blue team.
The game had an exciting finish that resulted in a 43-43 tie. The Orange team looked like it had control late in the second half after six straight points from Mike Davis, taking a 43-39 lead. The Blue team answered quickly, however, with baskets from Lacey Simpson and Steve Serio to tie it at 43-43 with under a minute to play. Both teams had a possession in the remaining seconds to get the win, but neither attempt fell through. Other game highlights included Bubba Chisholm hitting two three-pointers in the second half for the Blue team and Brian Bell starring for the Orange team.
The game was split into two, 20-minute halves and was played under wheelchair basketball rules. It had the same structure as a regular Illini home game, complete with cheerleaders, pep band and on-court promotions during timeouts. Complete lineup changes occurred every four minutes throughout the game with mixed lineups from all four Illini teams.
Halftime featured a celebrity free throw contest that also ended in a tie. Law and Weber participated along with UI president B. Joseph White and Scott Burnsmier of the American Cancer Society. Both Illinois head coaches advanced to the final after making all five of their free throw attempts in the first round, but then missed all five of their shots in the second round. After a sudden death round that failed to produce a winner, the contest was proclaimed a tie.
Patty Cisneros, women's wheelchair coach - "I thought this year's event flowed really well. We made some adjustments from past years, and it seemed as though everything ran smoother and it was more enjoyable for the crowd. This event really showcases our athletes and helps bring support to our programs that we hope will continue to build our fan base. I am so thankful to Coach Law and Coach Weber for being extremely supportive and spearheading the progress we have made."
Junior Lacey Simpson - "It's a great experience to play our sport in a different way. The Ultimate Basketball Challenge is a lot of fun and something I look forward to every year. It brings all of us Illini athletes closer together in the basketball world."
Sophomore Mike Tisdale - "It's great for everyone to come to this event and raise some money for charity. All of the players had a really fun time, and we hope everyone else who came out did as well."
Brian Bell, men's wheelchair team - "This year's event was amazing, like it always is. It's so much fun to combine all four teams. It really helps get the wheelchair teams more publicity and keeps people interested and coming to watch us play."