The first quarter was a feeling out process for both teams, in which neither offense was particularly potent. Lindsey Zurbrugg and Natalie Schneider hit their first two field goal attempts each, but it was a low scoring quarter with USA leading (12-10). It was the second quarter where the U.S. began to create separation against the Canadians. They outscored Canada 21-13 in the quarter.
Many people predicted the double big line-up featuring Kathleen ‘Kady’ Dandeneau and Arinn ‘Juice’ Young would create mismatch issues for the USA roster. Since Rio, Canada has consistently found ways to win in important games, including a three point win in the gold medal match at Lima 2019 Para Pan-American Games. However, the one two punch of Rose Hollermann and Schneider determined the outcome of the game with 19 and 18 points, respectively.
A pivotal moment took place in the first quarter when Hollermann picked up her second foul with under seven minutes remaining and Head Coach Trooper Johnson quickly subbed Bailey Moody into the game. Hollermann sat out for just under three minutes before Johnson put her back into the game. A bold move from the USA Coach based on his faith in Hollermann.
“I went down to the end of the bench and asked her 'how do you feel?'" said Johnson. "'Can you play smart ball and make sure that you protect yourself?' She said 'yeah, I got this.' I have to trust the decisions she’s gonna make.”
Hollermann is no stranger to big games, given her experience on the Paralympic stage. The savvy veteran showed exactly why she deserved the trust Coach Johnson placed in her.
Coming into this matchup, the U.S. squad relied on their outside shooting, but it was clear that Canada’s Head Coach, Marc Antoine Ducharme, was focused on limiting that production. Hollermann commented on how Schneider exploited that focus.
“Natalie Schneider had a huge game for us, she got us into it early and kept it going the entire game. Just having that big presence on the court and her mature basketball sense was awesome for us,” she said.
In the second quarter, not only was Schneider a steady source of contribution (seven points in the quarter), but she did not miss a shot for the entire half. “
"Our team has a really well-rounded game, we have such big threats on the outside, so when they were getting double jumped, I was able to get in,” added Schneider on the reads that Team USA made in today’s game.
The U.S. veterans’ (Hollermann and Schneider) performance sent USA into the half with a ten-point lead (33-23).
USA found themselves in a hotly contested pool during the preliminary round that provided many tests and an opportunity to prepare for the match up with Canada. Despite the intermittent full court pressure applied by Canada, USA committed just five turnovers in this elimination game. Coach Johnson talked about building confidence against the press.
“You show them on film, and you walk through it, and you say this is something we’ve already seen in practice and you guys have already responded to it and you’ve seen success in doing these things and simplify the reads," he said. "They were able to take those reads into the game today and it was a beautiful thing.”
The highlight for today’s game was truly the collective defensive effort made by USA and their ability to hold Canada to just 34% shooting. Significant focus was put on Dandeneau and Young. Dandeneau was in the top five in many statistical categories for the tournament coming into this game, but the Americans consistently rotated on defense to ensure she had very few clean looks at the basket.
“We were intent on making sure that we jumped out there and put pressure both her (Kady), Arinn and Cindy and try to make sure that they didn’t get on a streak right there,” said Coach Johnson.
That created ample looks for other members of Team Canada, but today was not their day. Instead, it was the U.S. squad that saw double-digit scoring performances by four of the five starters. This was bolstered by 75% shooting from the free throw line.
USA moves on to the semifinal and will play China on Thursday, September 2nd at Ariake Arena at 8:45pm Japan Standard Time.