Germantown — This fall, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater sophomore Becca Murray will roll through campus in her wheelchair, just another student on her way to class, looking to fulfill her goals of becoming a special education teacher and coach.
She'll look like anyone else on the quad, all eager fresh faces working hard to grab their version of the brass ring. The Germantown native has a specially equipped apartment with two of her teammates from the Warhawks' women's wheelchair basketball team, and she has fun scrimmaging against the men's wheelchair team on occasion.
Yes, just another student, one who just happens to aspire to something shinier than brass, something gold in texture and tone. Murray earned a gold medal playing for the American team in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics and now has in her possession a similarly colored bauble from the recently completed World Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Birmingham, England.
Murray played a huge role in that latter effort as she hit a layup off a pick and roll with 19 seconds left to put the Americans ahead for good in their 55-53 finals victory over Germany, their old rivals, on Saturday.
"Stuff like that never gets old," said Murray, just a short time after landing back in the states following her seven-hour flight from England. "It was such a great feeling when I saw that ball go in."
Her basket put America up 54-53, but the drama was not done yet. Teammate Natalie Schneider had to block a shot at the other end in order to help secure the win. Schneider was fouled on the subsequent rebound and made one of two free throws while Germany missed a last chance with just 0.8 remaining.
Murray led all scorers in the contest with 25 points and joined teammate Christina Ripp on the All-Tournament team. America also defeated Germany in the finals of the Paralympics two years ago
It was the seventh victory against no-defeats for the American team in the 17-day event, including its second over the Germans. Murray scored in double figures in each game on a team that had many of the same players from the Paralympic championship of two years ago.
Earlier in the tourney, the American squad had defeated Japan, 56-35, (Murray 21), Brazil, 66-24 (10), China, 81-40 (22), Germany, 65-53 (16), and Great Britain, 53-37 (22).
The big win was in the semifinals, 68-58, over Canada, which had dominated the World Championships for more than two decades. In that contest, Americans Carlee Hoffman (21 points) and Murray (19) proved to be a one-two punch the Canadians could not handle.
"It was a great experience to beat them," Murray said. "We really put it altogether in that game. It ranks right up there with the Paralympics."
Works on shooting, skills
Murray credits the team's great communication and desire in earning this title. She said in the last year and a half, she's worked very hard on her defense and on shooting coming off screens. She takes about 200 shots a day, three days a week, in the Whitewater field house and is constantly working on her chair skills.
She'll enjoy the rest of her summer and then head back to school
"I really love it down there (in Whitewater)," she said. "The people have been so supportive. I'm going to work really hard this year and then focus on making the 2012 (Paralympic) team."
For another grab at the brass ring.
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