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Wolverines open season in style

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

The West Georgia Wolverines have a new home, and they’re looking to continue their winning ways.

For years, the home base for the Wolverines was Warm Springs, and they were consistently one of the top wheelchair basketball teams in the state.

Last year the Wolverines moved to LaGrange High, and they opened their season on Saturday with a pair of home

games against the Houston County Sharks.

After winning the first game 34-10, the Wolverines finished a perfect day with a 33-2 victory.

Jacob Roche is the head coach for the Wolverines, and he is proud of the progress the players have made since the start of practice last fall.

“The strides they’ve made from when we first started practicing until now is through the roof,” said Roche, who was an assistant coach on the football team that went 8-4 last season. “They’re fully coming together. They’re getting comfortable playing in the chair, and their abilities have really increased.”

The driving force behind bringing the team to Troup County was LaGrange High graduate Logan Wegienka, who was a team captain for the Wolverines when they were in Warm Springs.

When the Wolverines needed a new home, Wegienka met with LaGrange High athletics director Mike Pauley, and everything came together nicely.

The next step was to find someone to coach the team, and Pauley recruited Roche for the job.

“I got brought down to coach football, and coach Pauley asked me if I’d be interested in helping out, and I said yeah sure,” Roche said. “I’ve always wanted to give kids an opportunity to play. All kids want to be competitive and play sports, and this gives these kids a chance to do that.”

The team practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and for some of the players who don’t usually use wheelchairs, it has been an adjustment.

“A lot of people can pick up a basketball and shoot it, but when you do it out of a chair, it’s an entirely different game,” Roche said. “You’ve got to get used to learning the ways of playing basketball, and how to maneuver, and how to be a competitive athlete in a chair.”

If Saturday was an indication, big things could be ahead for the Wolverines.

Leading the way in scoring was junior Abby Simmons, who is one of the veterans on the team, and another key player is Mason McCartney, a senior at Troup High. Other players on the team are Long Cane Middle School eighth-grader Bailey McCartney, Callaway Middle School sixth-grader Jackson Ward, and Gavin Pijnenburg, a fifth-grader at Rosemont Elementary School.

Roche appreciated the support those players received during Saturday’s games at LaGrange High.

“We had a lot of support, not only the kids’ parents, but other people were here to cheer them on,” Roche said. “That was really a big thing to see.”

Roche is also grateful for the help he has received from assistant coach Scott Cochran, as well as Kristy Prater, the coordinator for the team.

Prater handles the logistics for the team, allowing Roche to concentrate solely on coaching.

“I always tell her she’s the (general manager), and I’m the head coach,” Roche said. “She puts everything together, and I coach the team.”

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