April 16th, 2019. The Westchester County Center was in need of some serious basketball. The Westchester Knicks season had ended with the team securing a first-place conference standing. The New York Liberty had not yet begun their 2019 season. The high school Slam Dunk basketball tournament was in the past and the Frankie Williams Memorial Classic still a month away. What to do with the hardwood court of the Westchester County Center? That problem was solved on the evening of April 16th as a group of very dedicated and talented athletes took to floor for the 12th Annual Westchester Wheelchair Basketball Tournament hosted by Cerebral Palsy of Westchester (CPW).
On hand to help with pre-game warm-ups and to cheer on the competitors were 6 members of the Iona College men’s basketball team, fresh off their NCAA tournament appearance. Coach John Mateyko and players Omorede Rainey, Andrija Ristanovic, E. J. Crawford, Ricky McGill and Jahnathan Maxwell came out to support the event. Adding to the evening’s festivities were the Byram Hills High School Cheerleaders.
Above: Members of the Iona College Men's Basketball helping out during warm-up
CPW’s Stephanie Russo-Pastilha opened the pre-game ceremony with a welcome to the players, fans and volunteers following by words of encouragement from Evan Latainer, Director of the County’s Office for People with Disabilities, and Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins. An inspirational rendition of the National Anthem was then offered by CPW’s vocal ensemble, the Vocal Groove. Then it was time for some basketball.
Above: From Left, Stephanie Russo-Pastilha, Evan Latainer, Ken Jenkins, Vocal Groove.
For those who enjoy a well-played tight contest, the evening did not disappoint. As the first quarter ended, the home team Barrier Breakers of CPW were just two points behind the guest team which consisted of players from the Wildcats of the Westchester School for Special Children and the New York Rolling Fury basketball team. The first quarter score of 12-10 couldn’t have been any closer. Each team scored another ten points over the course of the second quarter with the halftime score a still close 22-20. Once again, however, the Barrier Breakers were on the short side.
Everyone’s attention turned toward the half-time performance by the Vocal Groove and a free throw contest sponsored through the good graces of the Mid-Westchester Elks Lodge #535. With this important game on the line, Coach Wendell Rones of the Barrier Breakers, Coach Tony Bradley of the Wildcats, and Coach Chris Bacon of the N.Y. Rolling Fury worked with their players to plan strategy and encourage their efforts.
Above: Left and Right, Coaches urging on their teams; Center Mid-Westchester Elks Lodge #535 members
The Barrier Breakers came roaring back in the third quarter, outscoring the guest team, and tying-up the score at 30-30 to end the quarter. But it was not enough as the visiting team scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to end the game with a 42-34 win. This provided some redemption for the Barrier Breakers 40-32 win last year. Respecting the efforts of their opponents, the teams met at midcourt to congratulate each other on a spirited game.
Coach Wendell Rones summed up the night best by saying, “These kids are outstanding athletes, and their enthusiasm is contagious. This event allows them to enjoy the spirit of competition.”
Since 1949, Cerebral Palsy of Westchester has been the leading non-profit organization in Westchester and Fairfield County, providing essential educational services, direct services, vocational training, recreation, rehabilitation and advocacy to children and adults with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. The Barrier Breakers wheelchair basketball team welcomes anyone with disabilities, between the ages of 10 and 21, who reside in Westchester County. For those over the age of 21 the Barrier Breakers does include an adult team. The New York Rolling Fury serves residents with disabilities from New York City and Long Island who are between the ages of 5 and 21.
For information about the programs and services of Cerebral Palsy of Westchester, contact www.cpwestchester.org or call 914-937-3800 extension 353