CALI, COLOMBIA – The U.S. Men’s National Team qualified for the 2018 IWBF World Championships by rolling past Venezuela at the 2017 IWBF America’s Qualifier Quarterfinals, 101-26. Three-time U.S. Paralympian and gold medalist Mike Paye of Warren, Michigan, opened the scoring spree by scoring 10 of his 18 points in the first quarter, and giving Team USA a 26-11 advantage after the first.
The 2016 Paralympic defending gold medalists never looked back, playing a well-rounded game, only allowing single digits from the Venezuelans over the next three quarters (29-5; 23-8; 23-2).
The defensive front was highlighted by four-time U.S. Paralympian Matt Scott of Detroit, Michigan, who snagged 14 rebounds, dished out 7 assists and finished with 9 points on the day.
Five other Team USA athletes reached double figures in scoring. Leading the way was 2016 Paralympic gold medalists Jake Williams of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with 20 points; Brian Bell of Birmingham, Alabama, with 16 points, and Steve Serio of Westbury, New York, contributing 11 points. U.S. Men’s newcomer Ryan Neiswender saw plenty of action and scored 12 in the quarterfinal game.
Overall, Team USA had a tournament high 66 percent shooting efficiency, forced 15 turnovers that resulted in 23 points. The U.S. Men out rebounded Venezuela, 42-15.
Manuel Aragort and Nelson Artigas were the leading scorers for Venezuela with 9 and 7 points, respectively.
The U.S. Men will tip off against Argentina in the first semifinal game set for 1 p.m. central.
“This was a solid effort by our guys and the team set the tone early,” said U.S. Men’s Head Coach Ron Lykins of Columbia, Missouri. “We are happy to know that we qualified for the World Championships but our main focus is Argentina in the semifinals tomorrow. We came here with a goal to win and our job is not yet finished.”
The U.S. Men were drawn into Group B and will have pool play competition against Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay. Group A Teams are: Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.
The two semi-final games are scheduled for August 29 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. central. The medal games are set for August 30 at 3 p.m. with the bronze-medal game, and will be followed with the gold-medal game at 5 p.m. central.
The United States is led by Head Coach Ron Lykins of Columbia, Missouri, who has coached three teams to gold medals at the Paralympics (2004 and 2008 women; 2016 men). He will be assisted by Robb Taylor of Auburn, Alabama, and Christian Burkett of Seattle, Washington. Scott Meyer of Columbia, Missouri, returns as the team manager, and Mary Vacala of Savannah, Georgia, will be serving as the athletic trainer.
The America’s Qualifier is the first set of the four-year trek to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The U.S. Men are now qualified for the 2018 IWBF World Championships in Hamburg, Germany in August. Following the worlds, the U.S. will play in the 2019 ParaPan American Games set for Lima, Peru.
IWBF America’s Qualifier
August 23-30, 2017
Results (USA Record 5-0)
USA def. Mexico, 79-34
USA def. Colombia, 85-36
USA def. Uruguay, 78-24
USA def. Brazil, 47-44
Quarterfinal: USA def. Venezuela, 101-26
IWBF America’s Qualifier Medal Rounds
8/29 1 PM, Men’s semi-final – USA vs. Argentina
8/29 5 PM, Men’s semi-final – Canada or Colombia vs. Brazil
8/30 3 PM, Men’s Bronze-medal game
8/30 5 PM, Men’s Gold-medal game