LIMA, PERU – The USA Women were unable to comeback against Canada in the 2019 ParaPan American Games and go home with silver and qualify for Tokyo 2020. Kathleen Dandeneau for Team Canada delivers triple-double to lead Canada to Gold (67-64).
The Friday night match-up was like a heavy weight battle with the two top teams in the tournament who cruised to the final. This battle comprised of 24 women, most of whom have competed in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) and who have been impact players on their Collegiate, Women’s, or Adult Division teams. The USA and Canada programs are examples of what it means to develop a strong pipeline and tonight’s game was a return on that investment.
USA would start the game with a balanced scoring attack with Becca Murray (Germantown, WI) and Lindsay Zurbrugg (Portland, OR) continuing their hot shooting from mid-range. Both of these undefeated teams would go on a series of runs, yet USA maintained their lead in the first quarter to go into the intermission with a five-point lead (16-11).
In the second quarter, Canada created their own momentum with their defense. They disrupted the Americans’ sets by putting pressure on their chairs, especially in the half court. The Canadians forced Team USA out of their range and began contesting their passes more aggressively. When USA was able to get into their set, the ball swings were cleaner, leading to better looks at the basket.
Their two markswomen would lead the squad with 12 each in the first half. For Canada, it was Arinn Young and Dandeneau who would each take a turn assisting the other in the final two minutes of the second quarter. Dandeneau would hit a free throw on an ‘And 1’ to take the lead briefly for Canada. Lindsay Zurbrugg would answer with another 15-footer to close the half, helping USA regain the lead 32-31.
Courtney Ryan (San Diego, CA) carried the bulk of the load for the Americans in the third quarter. While the Canadians were busy sending help to the wings to limit Murray and Zurbrugg’s shots, Ryan was repeatedly left open at the free throw area. Courtney had ice-water in her veins, sinking an impressive five of five from the field and scoring ten of USA’s third quarter points.
Becca Murray commented on how well her teammates stepped up. “We have a lot of different threats. It’s just amazing what we’ve come to accomplish, coming together,” she said. “We’re each used to our own roles with our local teams, but to come together and perform our roles for Team USA, everyone’s done a great job.”
After a third quarter that saw several ties and lead changes, Team USA was up 52-47 going into the fourth. Canada continued their tough defense and had its stars make more big plays down the stretch, including a three-pointer from Arinn ‘Juice’ Young early in the fourth quarter. This would give Canada the momentum, which would later force Head Coach Trooper Johnson (San Lorenzo, CA) to use two timeouts in the last five minutes. Johnson had his team start fouling, putting the Canadians on the free throw line and preserving time on the clock.
This tactic gave the Americans a chance, and it was Zurbrugg that helped keep USA close, converting two free throws after a foul, and then another field goal with under three minutes left in regulation.
Becca Murray and Kathleen Dandeneau would exchange baskets before the Americans’ last opportunity. In transition with under ten seconds on the clock, Canada’s defense extended on USA’s top scorer, Murray. Murray passed the ball to Zurbrugg who rolled into a perfect catch and release three. The ball made a full revolution around the rim before rolling out as the buzzer sounded.
Coach Johnson is proud of Zurbrugg’s effort. “I’m so excited about her potential as a USA basketball player for an extended period of time,” he said. “For her entire team to have the confidence in her that they do, and for her to step up the way she did in this tournament speaks volumes for what she can do down the road.”
Co-Captain, Becca Murray reflected on the team’s progression. “This is a process of meshing our veterans and less experienced players,” she said. “Our main goal was to qualify for Tokyo, and now we can continue to work on gelling further. Even though we didn’t get the result we wanted here, we should be proud of where we are in the process.”
This Women’s Team gave the entire NWBA something to be proud of, and a reason to be excited looking ahead to Tokyo. They displayed grit, hustle and teamwork on behalf of the Association.