RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The pool play game that both the United States and Netherlands were looking forward to, lived up to its billing – this was the one game needed for top ranking for the quarterfinals of the Women’s Wheelchair Basketball tournament of the Paralympic Games. Team USA outlasted the Netherlands, 60-50, and is now a perfect 3-0 at the Games. Team USA will face Algeria on Monday to close out the preliminary round before advancing to the quarterfinals.
“They’ve kind of been the monkey on our backs for a while now since 2012 and Worlds, getting beat by them again, so we knew we had to come out with a lot of intensity and a lot of focus,” said two-time Paralympian Desiree Miller of Monroe, Washington. “I’m really proud of the girls that played and everyone on the bench brought a lot of energy. It was beautiful.”
The United States came out quickly scoring on its first three shots, however the Dutch returned with its driving offense to keep the score close, 6-4. As the first quarter built, Team USA used a lot of ball movement and screens to create openings where two-time Paralympian Rose Hollerman of Elysian, Minnesota, scored 12 of her 17 points, to give Team USA the lead, 18-9.
“I think all of us are competitive and love a close game – I like that feeling, I like the pressure. We know that basketball is a game of runs and that we’ve just got to weather the storm and swing the ball and play team basketball,” said Hollerman. “We were just thinking about our pool play and wanting to win. It’s an entirely different team than London so in the last four years, we’ve been playing them and losing to them, but this year, we’ve improved a lot. We felt really ready going into this game and felt really prepared.”
Team USA utilized the nine points from three-time Paralympian Becca Murray of Germantown, Wisconsin, in the second quarter to build a 27-11 lead in the first half of the second quarter. The U.S. defense was spurred to life by two-time Paralympian Desiree Miller of Monroe, Washington, and Hollerman who grabbed a collective 13 of the United States 20 rebounds. The Netherlands closed out the half with a 10-4 run. The United States went into the locker room with a 31-21 advantage.
The Netherlands came out strong to start the third cutting into Team USA’s lead. Mariska Beijer of the Netherlands scored 10 of her 30 points in the third, until Schwab came back into the game to close out the third finishing the quarter with a momentum changing three-pointer and give the United States a 41-34 lead.
The fourth quarter was evenly played as both teams exchanged baskets, and Team USA never relinquished its lead, even though the Dutch brought is close as three points several times. Team USA rallied in the waning moments from the foul line to build to a 60-50 victory.
“Quite honestly, we were trying to find something that would get us back in a groove offensively and defensively. We put our smaller lineup in because I thought that might give us some speed to try and push their bigs out of the key,” said U.S. Women’s Head Coach Stephanie Wheeler of Champaign, Illinois. “We’re not very big in that lineup. We switched to our bigger lineup because we thought they could contend a little more with Mariska (Beijer) getting in. I just don’t think they were quite as quick as we needed them to be and our tried and trues – that lineup with Desiree Miller, Rose Hollerman and Becca Murray – that’s sort of our comfort blanket.
“We knew that if we went back to them at the end of the game, with them getting a little bit of rest during that third and fourth quarter, if they were going to be able to come in and compose themselves to pull it out at the end.”
Murray finished the game with 13 points and 7 assists. The trio of Miller, Schwab and Gail Gaeng of Frederick, Maryland, each scored 8 points. Hollerman concluded the day with a total of 17 rebounds and four assists.
Both teams were almost identical statistically, with Team USA shooting 45 percent for the night to the Netherlands’ 36 percent. The Dutch grabbed a total of 39 rebounds, only one more than Team USA.
The last game between these two powerhouses was for the bronze medal at the London Games, where the Dutch won 71-47. The United States is now 5-3 against the Netherlands at the Paralympic Games. The United States is now 39-22 overall in the Paralympic Games.
Team USA has one more game in pool play, and stands at 3-0 in the pool, with the Netherlands being 2-1, and will play China on Monday. Team USA is the only team with an unblemished record in both of the pools.
Up next for the United States is Algeria on Monday, September 12 at 8:30 a.m. Eastern in the Rio Olympic Arena. This will be the first time that the United States has played Algeria at the Paralympics, and is the 15th country that the United States has played in Paralympic competition.
The U.S. women’s team qualified for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games by winning the 2015 Parapan American Games. The U.S. women dominated the Parapan Am competition by outscoring their opponents by 55 points per game and avenged their 2014 World Championships fourth-place finish by defeating Canada for the gold medal in Toronto, Canada.
The U.S. Women’s Head Coach is Stephanie Wheeler of Champaign, Illinois, who won two Paralympic gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Games, and will be assisted by NWBA Hall of Famer Trooper Johnson of San Lorenzo, California, and Amy Spangler of Madison, Wisconsin, with Kearstin Gehlhausen of Whitewater, Wisconsin, serving as the team leader, and Karla Wessels of Lexington, Kentucky, is the athletic trainer. Dr. Roberta Kraus of Colorado Springs, Colorado, serves as both the men’s and women’s Team Psychologist.
The U.S. Women’s team finished fourth at the London 2012 Paralympics, after claiming the gold medal at the Beijing 2008 and Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
September 7-18, 2016
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games Wheelchair Basketball Results
USA def. France, 93-37
USA def. China, 70-36
USA def. Netherlands, 60-50
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games U.S. Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Record – 3-0
Most points in a game – 93 points vs. France on Sept. 8 (Old record – 75 points in 2008 vs. China)
Largest margin of victory – 56 points vs. France on Sept. 8 (Old record – 50 points in 2004 vs. Great Britain)