You haven't gone hard in the paint until you've done it in a wheelchair.
The Tillsonburg Dragons took on members of the Norfolk County Fire Department last Friday as part of their monthly match against the firefighters at Annandale Public School. The Norfolk station rotates with the Tillsonburg Fire Department in playing the Dragons every other week.
The Dragons did win the match, 26-22, but player/coach Kevin Buranyi said that the games against the firefighters aren't about wins and losses, or bragging rights, but it's “all just for the fun of it.”
“Here, we just practice for fun.”
The team is comprised of both youth and adults with physical disabilities living in Tillsonburg and area. The team also plays competitively as they travel and participate in tournaments in the Division 3 league.
Buranyi began playing wheelchair basketball with the Tillsonburg squad at the age of 14.
Buranyi, now 28, was the only one playing that actually requires a wheelchair. But don't let that fool you, he is one of the most talented players on the court. Throughout the match you'd hear the opposition yell “watch out for Kevin” as he was often a threat to score.
“He's a wizard on that thing,” explained firefighter Doug Mulholland. “He can fly. You gotta be on him.”
Mulholland has been playing against the Dragons for the last three years and still finds the game quite a challenge.
“It's not easy,” he said. “The net's 10 feet but you're four feet lower.”
Often times able-bodied players would naturally try to sit up to reach for the ball or to block a shot usually resulting in a loss of balance or, in one firefighter's experience, completely tipping over.
The game is a rough one, too. Chairs crash and bang into each other under the net as players fight for position and possession. There is a lot of contact and horseplay, but it's all in good spirits.
“We'll feel it tomorrow,” said Mulholland. “They go after us. We give it back and they give it to us.”
The Dragons will travel to St. Catharines this upcoming weekend as they take part in the ninth annual Brock Niagara Penguins Wheelchair Basketball Tournament. The tournament showcases a number of Division 3 teams from throughout Southern Ontario.