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Marines take Warrior Games wheelchair basketball gold for 2nd straight year

By CARLOS BONGIOANNI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 24, 2015

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — For the second year in a row, Team Marine Corps took a gold medal in wheelchair basketball competition Tuesday at the 2015 Warrior Games, which wrap up at Quantico on Sunday.

The top-seeded Marines defeated Navy 57-24.

Though the team swept all the others in preliminary matches, it didn’t come into Tuesday’s game expecting an easy victory.

“That mindset can fill up a room and drown a team real quick,” Zach Blair said.

Tuesday’s matchup was the toughest of the week, said Blair, who noted that before the game, many of the team members were involved in field events that took place earlier in the day.

“We’ve been playing all week … five games a couple of days ago … a game yesterday. We've been throwing (the discus and shot put) all day in the hot sun and had to muster up enough energy to play at the high intensity we’re capable of.”

Blair credited his team's success to the caliber of players, coaches and fans who have come out to support them.

“We feed off the fans,” he said while endeavoring to execute their coaches’ game plan.

Marines point guard Ray Hennagir never played basketball before becoming a competitor in the Warrior Games. He said a physical therapist at Walter Reed kept pushing him to go out and play. Finally, he decided to try it out.

“I fell in love with it. It’s so much fun,” Hennagir said.

In Tuesday’s matchup, Hennagir, 28, never left the game; he’s the go-to ball-handler for the team.

For that reason, the other team often tries to keep him from getting the ball, since it knows he can do a lot of damage on the court.

“They know I’m the best point guard on our team, so they’re trying to keep me from getting the ball.”

Though he’s been playing for eight years, Hennagir said his shooting skills still need a lot of work. But his passing game is on track.

“The way I look at it, if I get 15 assists in one game, we win,” Hennagir said.

Marines head coach Joey Gugliotta was pleased with Tuesday’s outcome, noting that their 57 points was the most they scored in a game all week.

bongioanni.carlos@stripes.com
 

Marines point guard Ray Hennagir brings the ball up the court Tuesday, June 23, 2015, during the Warrior Games championship wheelchair basketball matchup between Team Marine Corps and Navy at Quantico Marine Base, Va.
CARLOS BONGIOANNI/STARS AND STRIPES

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