Winning national championships is nothing new to the University of Alabama men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams. The two teams own a combined total of nine collegiate titles, six for the women and three for the men, including back-to-back national championships in 2018 and 2019 for the men.

But what is new is both teams, for the first time, have claimed the nation’s top prize in the same season. Both won it all in 2019.

Dr. Brent Hardin and his wife, Margaret, started the program in 2003 with a women’s team. The men’s program started in 2007.

“They were two extraordinary teams, two teams that were peaking at the right time of the year, two teams that really improved as the year went on,” said Hardin, director of adaptive athletics at Alabama, of the 2019 teams. “I think it’s really awesome that as many great teams that we have had here that this is the first year both teams have won the championship in the same year.”

The newest championships came via the 42nd Annual National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament hosted by the University of Illinois March 14-16.

Both Alabama teams went into the tournament as No. 2 seeds. Both defeated their respective tournament’s No. 1 seeds in the championship game.

“I don’t think one championship was more surprising than the other,” Hardin said. “Our strength coach texted me the morning before the championship game and I asked him how he felt about it, and he said he felt like we were going to win two. I was afraid to say it, but I felt the same way. Both teams were really playing well. But, that being said, we were the underdogs in both games. Both teams we played for the championship had beaten us two weeks earlier in our gym. Neither one was more surprising than the other, but both were upsets.”

The women’s tournament run started with a 55-32 win against No. 3 seed Illinois in the semifinal followed by an 82-76 overtime win against top-seeded and defending national champion Texas-Arlington. In that championship game, Alabama, coached by Ryan Hynes, led 34-26 at halftime, but the top-ranked Lady Movin’ Mavs came out in the third period and outscored Alabama, 20-11. Texas-Arlington took a 36-35 lead heading into the fourth period of regulation.

With the game still tight and Alabama trailing in the final seconds, Alabama’s Katharina Lang tied the game at 67-67 with six seconds remaining. Texas-Arlington answered the Munich, Germany, native’s basket by attempting a shot, but missed, sending the game to overtime where Alabama dominated for the win.

Lang ended the game with 24 points.

Arinn Young, a Canadian national team member, led the win, scoring 39 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and making 10 assists to give Alabama its third women’s national championship in the last five seasons.

“When I first signed to go to Alabama, I said I was going to win five national championships,” said the four-year veteran, laughing at her naivety. “So far I’ve got two, and it’s been a really hard, long journey. But it’s also been pretty good.”

The women ended the season with a 24-5 overall record and a team that will return, intact, as all of the players will be back in 2019-20, including Young.

“It will still not be an easy road, because all the other college teams have good recruits coming in,” Young said of a possible repeat in 2020.

“A lot of hard work was put into it this year. We knew we had a job to do, and I think everyone bought into and believed in what our coach, Coach Hynes, could do for us. That’s what brought us to this success,” Young said. “It was a hard year. Our coaches really focused on our defense as a team and our conditioning because those were areas we were lacking. It was a tough year. But it was all worth it, especially when you can beat an opponent you’d been trying to beat for a couple of years.”

The men’s team, coached by Ford Burttram, began their 2018 title defense in the 2019 tournament’s quarterfinal with a 77-65 win against No. 7 seed Southwest Minnesota State. Alabama defeated No. 3 seed Texas-Arlington, 75-59, in the semifinal. It was a 79-73 win in the championship game against top-seeded Wisconsin-Whitewater that gave Alabama back-to-back titles, its third since the men won their first national championship in 2013. Alabama defeated Wisconsin-Whitewater in the 2018 championship game as well.

Dequel Robinson, game MVP, came one rebound short of a triple-double. The Mobile native had 28 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. Australian national team member Michael AuPrince had 27 points, 17 rebounds and six assists.

The men finished the season 27-5 with five seniors completing their eligibility.

“Last year was more challenging and more difficult than this year,” said Robinson, who played in his final game for Alabama and has been on the team for six seasons, including a first-year medical red shirt season. “I will say that this year was more rewarding and joyful in that we made history in the program. It had never been done at Alabama, having back-to-back national championships on the men‘s team. Also special, with it being my senior year, I’m going out with a bang. It was something I was hoping for, something I was wanting, and we came through as a team and made it happen.”

Both teams’ rosters overflow with international talent — national team players, Paralympians. But both Robinson and Young believe chemistry also has a lot to do with Alabama’s success.

“It’s all of the above,” said Robinson, who was invited to the USA team trials recently. “We’ve got a great group of guys with awesome talent. Off the court is what brings us together on the court because we thrive on having fun and getting to know one another. The coaches have us ‘brother up’ with a different teammate each semester to try to get to know one another, get to understand each other a little better. That helps the team chemistry, helps us bond on the court. And we’ve just got a sheer amount of talent on the court.”

“This year will be a year I’ll treasure. It means a lot to me because it brings so much awareness and attention to adaptive athletics as a whole but also to the University of Alabama. The University of Alabama is known for its multiple championships, but it just goes to show that we adaptive athletes work and train just as hard and the work pays off in the end. We’re proud to give back to the university with these national championships because of what the university has given us.”