Steve Serio, a four-time Paralympian, put the U.S. squad on his back with 28 points and nine assists. To start the game, Serio scored or assisted on 16 of USA’s 18 first quarter points. His teammates needed his poise to deal with the emotion that Japan played with in their first ever Paralympic final. That passion led the Japanese team out to an 8-0 run at the Ariake Arena to start final.
One of the sources of the early USA offense came from John Boie. As a low point player, he creates assists that do not show up on the stat sheet. He was adept at sealing off defenders to create a lane for Brian Bell on multiple plays in the first. He also hit back-to-back shots, including receiving the ball on the right block and rolling to the left and putting up a shot usually only seen in a game of “horse” - a right-handed reverse on the left side.
Boie, first-time Paralympian, talked about competing on this stage with Team USA.
“Man, it took a long time to get here, and it’s really a surreal feeling. The journey to get here is amazing,” he said.
For Japan, the tandem of Reo Fujimoto and Hiroaki Kozai set the pace offensively. They accounted for 17 points with Fujimoto looking for mismatches and Kozai hitting big shots from the outside.
Matt Scott thought Japan had a well-played game.
“Hiro was amazing today, hats off to him. A gold medal isn’t supposed to be won easy, nobody’s here on accident. They deserve to be here, and they played extremely well,” he said.
The third quarter belonged to Serio who scored all 13 of America’s points. The degree of difficulty on some of the shots he made was just incredible. He opened the quarter with a dribble drive from the left wing attacking two Japan defenders and scored. Serio followed that up with a three-pointer from the right wing. Throughout the quarter, Serio’s teammates looked for him, often with the shot clock under five seconds.
Time and time again, Serio delivered when Team USA needed his leadership most.
“You’ve gotta trust the work that you put in over two decades time and know that you can make that shot at that moment for the team,” said Serio. “It really comes down to the work and preparation when no one is watching in an empty gym.”
Despite the wheel print that Serio had on the game thus far, the Japanese squad entered the fourth quarter with a one-point lead. After a timely bucket from Jake Williams and an “And 1” created by Serio, USA tied the game at 50 each. The teams exchanged baskets until a Serio steal and two successive baskets from Jake Williams. From that point, USA did not relinquish the lead.
But in order to secure the victory, Serio needed to continue his clutch performance. He made another outside shot on the assist from Brian Bell and iced the game with three free throws.
Ron Lykins had nothing but praise for his co-captain.
“He really stepped up on the offensive end for us for us, knocked down some really key shots,” said Lykins. “Three or four of them that he hit with the shot clock going down and he didn’t have a shot and he somehow created it and knocked them down. Without those, we’re in trouble.”
The road for any medalist in Tokyo was not an easy one. USA Men’s Wheelchair Basketball did not have an easy path during this tournament with tough matchups in both the preliminary and the elimination round. After the game, the athletes once again had the opportunity to celebrate their hard work and gold medal results.
The accomplishments for this program did not end after the final buzzer. USA’s Matt Scott was selected by the USOPC delegation to carry the flag as they enter the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The entire sport and those who play it in the USA can celebrate with and for Scott.
The five-time Paralympian reflected on being selected as flag bearer means to him.
“It means so much to me just because the athletes that I’ll be leading are all so courageous,” said Scott. “Everybody here that competed at the Games this year are courageous, the resilience that we’ve all had to face in the last 18 months is just incredible. So, to be chosen to be the face of that and hold the flag high when we leave this is incredible. Being able to do so in style with a gold medal around my neck says it all.”
Team USA defended their gold and with the quality of competition improving each year across the globe, this is an amazing feat. The core of this team was able to stay together throughout a tumultuous period and leverage their defensive identity to secure the win. This is the ninth gold medal earned by USA men in Paralympic competitions.