LIMA, PERU – USA Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Team qualifies for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics with a decisive win over Argentina (67-36), as they advance to the Lima 2019 ParaPan American Gold Medal Game.
Team USA started relatively slow in the first quarter only scoring 12 points on six of 15 shooting. Although the team had crisp ball movement and consistent pick and roll opportunities, the ball was not dropping as frequently as it had earlier in the tournament.
A bright spot in the first was Aaron Gouge (Wake Forest, NC) who was proficient with his shots, one on a roll to the basket and two for a 15-foot shot. He scored six points in the quarter and had 11 in the game. “I came out intense and fired up. This was ‘the game.’ If we won, then we were going to Tokyo,” said Gouge.
After the first intermission, USA adjusted and applied more pressure on Argentina. On made baskets, they pressed their opponents full court, while on misses they would set up in the half court. Despite a near capacity crowd, Head Coach Ron Lykins (Columbia, MO) could be heard imploring his team, “Shadow, shadow, shadow!” to stop their movement.
After the game, Coach Lykins said, “We wanted them to play at a faster level than they were comfortable with, and that led to turnovers.” That strategy proved very effective. Argentina committed ten total turnovers on the half. They also struggled to score in the second quarter with only two baskets in the first seven minutes.
It was Josh Turek (Council Bluffs, IA) who found the hot hand in the second quarter for Team USA. He scored nine of his 11 first half points in the second quarter. Turek is known for his prolific scoring, and he showed no preference for where he inflicted his damage from, hitting from either side of the court, the elbows and the wings. He led Team USA in scoring with 18 total points in the game.
Turek said his success was a team effort. “As always, we did it as a team. Everyone chipped in. Today was my moment. Just the way they were playing defense, left a lot of wide-open shots in the middle and in other spots where I take shots. As you see, every single game we have a next man up mentality,” he said.
The third quarter was where Team USA extended the lead, outscoring Argentina 21 to six. Argentina decided to sit multiple starters in the second half, considering USA had the game under control. Argentina’s strategy was to rest their stars, Adolfo Berdun and Gustavo Villafañe, to increase their chances of defeating Colombia on Saturday to qualify for Tokyo 2020.
Team USA will face Canada in the finals. Canada has several members of the New York Rollin’ Knicks on their roster, including Patrick Anderson. Anderson, many argue, is one of the most gifted athletes in the 70-plus year history of the game, but according to Lykins, he will face a deep USA roster.
“We will go anywhere between seven and ten guys that we can use during this game tomorrow. We’ll use everybody we can and use whatever we need to be successful,” Lykins said.
USA and Canada will tip off the 2019 ParaPan American Final at 5:00pm central on Saturday, August 31 from the Villa Deportiva Nacional.