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Senior breaking through boundaries

Steffen Newman, Features Editor

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When senior Tanner Gentry was involved in a boating accident at the age of 7, which left him without the lower half of his right leg, he didn’t see himself winning a national championship in any sport.

However, over this past Spring Break, he did just that.

Gentry and his Mary Free Bed Junior Pacers wheelchair basketball team, which is made up of teens from West Michigan, won the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s Junior Division Varsity Championship on April 2 by defeating a team from Atlanta in the championship game.

The Pacers defeated Blaze Sports 54-36, and Gentry, who finished the game with 25 points, 11 assists, and four rebounds, was the championship MVP.

“It’s truly a blessing,” Gentry said. “Going from a seven-year-old who got hit by a boat to playing at the highest level of basketball possible, it’s a blessing.”

Gentry’s team competes in the Midwestern League, which culminates in a region-wide tournament. The Midwest region, just like any other sport, contains Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

After winning the Midwest title, Gentry and the Pacers competed in the national tournament, which was held in Louisville, Ky.

“The national tourney had 16 teams,” Gentry said. “It was single-elimination, so it was similar to the Sweet Sixteen in March Madness.”

In their final three games, they played teams out of Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta, respectively.

“It was awesome to be able to play in the big games,” Gentry said. “We did make the national tourney last year, but we finished sixth.”

Additionally, Gentry’s talent and hard work are paying off with more than just hardware. Both University of Missouri and University of Nebraska-Omaha are offering Gentry large scholarships for him to play basketball on their team.

“Again, it’s a blessing to have something I love doing turn into my college funding,” Gentry said. “It’s special.”

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