RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The two originators of wheelchair basketball, United States and Great Britain, closed out the Rio Paralympic Games’ pool play tournament with an intense game, where the United States pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 65-48 victory, however the first three quarters was a see-saw battle. The United States concluded pool play tournament in Carioca Arena 1 with a perfect 5-0 record and will tip off with the Netherlands for its quarterfinal match-up that is slated for Wednesday at the Rio Olympic Arena.
With these two teams playing each other on a frequent basis and a total of 14 times in the Paralympic Games, it was a matter of feeling each other out and seeing what tactics were going to be deployed to start the fist quarter.
The United States was able to pull ahead with the aggressive defensive play of co-captain and three-time U.S. Paralympian Steve Serio of Westbury, New York. At the end of the first Team USA had a slight 13-12 lead, with a strong defense and the offensive power of Brian Bell of Birmingham, Alabama and co-captain and three-time U.S. Paralympian Mike Paye of Warren, Michigan, combining for 12 points (6 points each).
The leadership of Serio kept the United States composed in the second as both played evenly through the first five minutes. The U.S. gained momentum in the last five minutes from a steal by two-time Paralympian Trevon Jenifer of Huntington, Maryland, which resulted in a Serio lay-up; four points from three-time Paralympian Josh Turek of Council Bluffs, Iowa; and four-time Paralympian Matt Scott of Detroit, Michigan, finding his stroke with a pair, giving Team USA 23-16 lead with 3:27 remaining.
A strong defense continued to pressure Great Britain allowing the United States to find its range on a pair of three-pointers from Serio and Scott for a 29-16 lead with 1:52 left. Team USA closed out the half on top of Great Britain, 31-22.
At half, Serio led the team with seven points, four rebounds, and seven assists. He concluded the day with a solid performance on both sides of the court – 9 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists.
“One of my strengths is being capable to impact the team wherever possible. I can increase my ability defensively on rebounds, offensively shooting or passing the ball to the open player,” said Serio. “This team is amazing in that we have anyone who can lead the team in scoring or playing a strong defense. It doesn’t matter to me if I have to pass the ball or rebound for the victory. We accomplished our first goal of the tournament. Now it is win or go home. The Rio crowd has been remarkable to play in front of, and they are full of energy. I will cherish this memory forever.”
Coming out of half, Jake Williams of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, started the third strong draining two back-to-back baskets of his team leading 12 points. Turek and Jenifer scored several times increasing the U.S. lead to as many as 10 points, but Great Britain came back towards the end of the third, still behind, 42-37.
The fourth quarter was spurned on by Jenifer who started the final stanza with his knack of defense for a steal and then drove the court for two of his six points. From this point forward, Team USA pulled away with a lead as large as 15 points in several instances, and held on for the victory to advance as the No. 1 seed from the pool play tournament.
“Our game plan was to stop their top shooters tonight, and our guys executed well tonight. It was important that we did not have one guy go off for 20 points, and that was key,” said Jenifer.
Statistically, the U.S. outshot the team from the other side of pond, 54 percent to 46 percent, and utilized significant ball movement with 24 assists, to Great Britain’s 13. The U.S. also won the forced turnovers category, 16-9.
“We had opportunities to put this away, but it was either a mistake by us or Great Britain made a great play to shift the momentum. We did a great a job tonight of remaining composed and focused to executing what we planned,” said U.S. Men’s Head Coach Ron Lykins of Columbia, Missouri. “Great Britain is a medal quality team out there. All we are now focused on is the next game in front of us and take it one day at a time. I have told our team that the next three days are all gold-medal games, and we have to make sure that we take care of business to finish this tournament one day at a time.”
Team USA now holds a 11-3 advantage over Great Britain in Paralympic Games’ competition.
Overall, Team USA is 75-15 in Paralympic Games competition. The United States Men’s team finished pool play competition undefeated, 5-0, and will face the Netherlands on Wednesday, September 14 in the Rio Olympic Arena. The Netherlands hold a 4-2 record against the United States in the Paralympic Games. The last time these two countries played was in 2004, with the Netherlands winning 82-66.
The U.S. Men’s Team opened the Rio Games by defeating host country Brazil, 75-38. The U.S. men’s team qualified for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games by winning the 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto, Canada. The U.S. men outscored the competition by 36 points per game.
Also joining Lykins on the sidelines will be assistant coaches Robb Taylor of Auburn, Alabama, and John Sikora of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Scott Meyer of Columbia, Missouri, will serve as the Team Leader, with Mary Vacala of Savannah, Georgia, filling the athletic trainer position. Also assisting in preparations are strength coach Michael Cohen of Savannah, Georgia, and team psychologist Dr. Roberta Kraus of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The U.S. men’s team finished with a bronze medal at the London 2012 Paralympics and look to improve in Rio de Janeiro. The men’s team finished seventh in 2004 and fourth in 2008, following bronze-medal performances in 2000 and 1996.
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
September 7-17, 2016
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games Wheelchair Basketball Results
USA def. Brazil, 75-38
USA def. Germany, 77-25
USA def. Islamic Republic of Iran, 93-44
USA def. Algeria, 92-24
USA def. Great Britain, 65-48
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games U.S. Wheelchair Basketball Record – 5-0