CALI, COLOMBIA – The U.S. Men’s National Team needed a come-from-behind effort to win the gold-medal game of the 2017 IWBF America’s Qualifier against Canada at the Evangelista Mora Coliseum, 54-50. Team USA made the first points of the game, but Canada fought back and gained the lead with 8:43 remaining in the second quarter, 19-17. Canada maintained the lead until the final minutes of the game when Rio gold medalist Jake Williams of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, made a jump shot and brought USA in the lead, 49-48.
Three-time Paralympian and co-captain Steve Serio of Westbury, New York, was the top scorer of the night. The two-time Paralympic medalist managed 22 points, snagged 8 rebounds, and had 6 assists.
Williams, a member of the 2016 gold-medal team, is the only other player to score double digits, with 10 points. Williams made one of the most important baskets when he scored a jump shot and put USA in the lead with 2:52 remaining in the game, 49-48. He then assisted 2016 gold medalist Jared Arambula of Valparaiso, Indiana, on the next possession with a crafty layup for a 51-48 lead.
Arambula and Ryan Neiswender of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, were also top scorers for Team USA, each scoring 6 points each. Neiswender was a member of the 2013 America’s Qualifier team.
USA started off strong in the first quarter, but Canada managed to finish the first quarter in a tie, 15-15. Canada grabbed the lead in the second quarter and kept it for almost half the game. Team USA had to fight back from an 11-point deficit in the fourth.
Patrick Anderson and Nikola Goncin were the top scorers for Canada with 23 and 11 points, respectively. Anderson also managed 11 rebounds while Goncin had 10.
The United States is led by Head Coach Ron Lykins of Columbia, Missouri, who has coached three teams to gold medals at the Paralympics (2004 and 2008 women; 2016 men). He will be assisted by Robb Taylor of Auburn, Alabama, and Christian Burkett of Seattle, Washington. Scott Meyer of Columbia, Missouri, returns as the team manager, and Mary Vacala of Savannah, Georgia, will be serving as the athletic trainer.
The America’s Qualifier was the first set of the four-year trek to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The U.S. Men are now qualified for the 2018 IWBF World Championships in Hamburg, Germany in August. Following the worlds, the U.S. will play in the 2019 ParaPan American Games set for Lima, Peru.
IWBF America’s Qualifier
August 23-30, 2017
Results (USA Record 7-0)
USA def. Mexico, 79-34
USA def. Colombia, 85-36
USA def. Uruguay, 78-24
USA def. Brazil, 47-44
Quarterfinal: USA def. Venezuela, 101-26
Semifinal: USA def. Argentina, 50-36
Gold-Medal Game: USA def. Canada, 54-50