All five USA starters contributed to an impressive offensive performance in the first quarter of the bronze medal game. Lindsey Zurbrugg established herself early, tallying ten points in the quarter, creating a great start for the Americans who were determined to bounce back from a semifinal loss.
The prior game against China did not linger on Zurbrugg’s mind.
“My mentality was the whole team has my back no matter what happens,” said Zurbrugg on her mindset coming into this game.
United States Head Coach, Trooper Johnson, felt good about what he could expect from Zurbrugg.
“When we were on the warmup court, she was hitting everything. I told my assistant if she carries this onto the court, it’s gonna be awesome,” he said.
Zurbrugg ended the game with 22 points in her first Paralympic medal game.
Rose Hollermann found another way to fill the stat sheet for Team USA. Through the first three quarters, she racked up nine rebounds and eight assists with a modest four points. Hollermann is a multi-faceted talent who has contributed in various ways to this team.
“My role on this team isn’t always to be a scorer,” said Hollermann. “That’s something that I’ve become super prideful of. My job is to get everyone else going. Trying to find Lindsey open, Courtney open and get Nat inside the paint.”
Germany’s Mareike Miller put up an incredible fight to try to keep Germany in the game, and to have a chance at a late game comeback. Miller led all scorers in this game with 26 points. She helped the Germans win the second and third quarters, but USA held her to just two points in the fourth.
Hollermann and Natalie Schneider each contributed 8 points for USA in the fourth quarter, hitting shots from the field and securing the game from the free throw line. As Germany tried to slow the game down by fouling, they combined for eight of eleven.
Schneider reflected on Hollermann’s talent.
“She’s really given a lot to the sport and it’s really paying off for her. She’s a phenomenal player and she’s only going to keep getting better,” she said.
USA won the fourth quarter in convincing fashion, 20-12, and they secured their bronze medal. It was a comfortable win for USA because they had balanced scoring, as opposed to relying heavily on one or two threats. Co-Captain, Darlene Hunter, shared how the team came together for the victory.
“We just really talked about coming together. This is the last time that we are going to probably play with these 12 girls, so embrace it, love it and enjoy the moment,” she said.
One factor that makes this bronze medal victory even more impressive is the number of first-time Paralympians on the roster. Covid-19 elevated the amount of turnover that the program faced, and that forced other people to lead and new athletes to step into roles sooner than usual.
Hunter shared how it felt to claim bronze with such a young roster.
“It’s amazing, I think we had a lot of doubters in the world,” she said. “And people were like the USA team is not going to be a threat. This just showed the world that the USA is here, and we have a pipeline, and we are gonna work hard to establish new women.”
Coach Johnson added: “For us to be in this position especially with such a young team, and this many rookies, we’re extremely proud.”
The team was all smiles as they celebrated this collective accomplishment. All 12 athletes and the Team USA Staff watched the American flag get hoisted into the rafters alongside the flags of Netherlands and China who earned gold and silver, respectively. USA was in the same pool as the gold and silver medal winning teams.
Coach Johnson’s take was: “they’re the only teams we lost to. We’re right there!”
The U.S. Men compete tomorrow against host country, Japan, in the gold medal game at 12:30 Japan Standard Time. Which converts to today at 9:30pm Mountain Time. USA Wheelchair Basketball is the only program returning from Tokyo 2020 with two medals.