LIMA, PERU – USA Men capture the gold medal at the 2019 ParaPan American Games with stifling defense.
Team USA came out very hot in the first five minutes of the first quarter. Mikey Paye (Gross Pointe, MI), co-captain of the team, stated the importance of this as someone in a leadership role.
“We knew we had to come out and be really aggressive. It’s important for the captains to come out and lead by example,” he said.
Co-Captains, Paye and Steve Serio (Westbury, NY) contributed 11 of USA’s 18 points in the first quarter. Paye hit three of four from the wings to help establish momentum for the team. USA had crisp ball movement from side to side, which created space for the shooters to get off their shots.
Canada briefly closed the gap, capitalizing on an errant pass and an offensive foul on consecutive plays at the three-minute mark. Overall, Canada faced suffocating defense at the hands of Team USA. This led to an anemic shooting percentage in the opening quarter (4/15), which was a prelude of the ensuing quarters. All credit goes to the Americans for forcing unrelenting pressure on Canada.
USA Head Coach Ron Lykins (Columbia, MO) feels his team played smart against Pat Anderson. “We’ve seen Pat take over games in the past, and if Canada was going to have a strong performance, we wanted to make sure that somebody else beat us. I felt our guys played him with great intensity, but they also played very smart,” he said.
This could be said for both Anderson and Nik Goncin. USA would use frenetic communications and obsessive chair control to limit their scoring to 14 points on 5 of 18 in the first half.
Offensively, the depth of USA would be on full display. Jake Williams (Milwaukee, WI), Matt Scott (Detroit, MI) and Josh Turek (Council Bluffs, IA) would combine for 11 of the team’s 17 points in second quarter, which extended the lead to 35-23 to end the half. Turek lead USA in scoring with 18 total points for the game.
Scott emphasizes his role on the team as someone who brings energy to his play. “I know my role, I’m an energy guy, I want to come in and give the best energy I can and provide some defensive stops. I also want to give the same energy on offense,” he said.
The second half would prove to be much the same. After each team went back and forth for the first three and a half minutes, Anderson would commit his fourth foul of the game, leading to a David Eng substitution. At this point, Turek and Scott would partner on a back-breaking three-and-a-half-minute stretch where USA would rattle off a 17-2 run. It was Nik Goncin of Canada who stopped the run by hitting a two just inside the three-point line. Scott, never one to be outdone, came right back on the next possession and rolled into and hit an exquisite three- pointer.
By this point, the damage had been done and the game was out of reach for Canada. This tournament for Team USA, en route to their third consecutive ParaPan American Gold Medal, was about a team brand of basketball vs. individual excellence. The team ranked in the top two in most team related statistical categories (field goal percentage, assists, rebounds, points against). Conversely, no individual on the squad would make it in the top two of any individual statistical category. Moral of the story: this team was incredibly unselfish, placing team goals above all else.
As for the process moving forward, Scott said: “I will treat this one [Tokyo] like I don’t have another Paralympics left in me. I will be training as hard as I possibly can, and I know we will be holding each other accountable. We will be ready for Tokyo.”
Outcomes like the men’s gold and the women’s silver are not possible without the support of their respective staffs, our Sponsors and the USOPC. We are grateful for the incredible support we have from everyone involved in the process.