by Mariya Abedi
RIO DE JANEIRO – Team USA wheelchair basketball teams were on fire on the first day of competition, defeating their rivals in both the men’s and women’s division.
The women’s team set not one, but two new U.S. records in their game against France. They scored 93 points, breaking the last record of 75 for the most points scored in a single game at the Paralympics since 2008. They also won by the largest margin of victory with a 56 point lead for any game won by a U.S. Paralympic team. The record was previously 50 points, which was set in 2004 against Great Britain.
The game was off to great start in the first quarter with Becca Murray and Rose Hollermann scoring 20 points. By half-time, the U.S. was leading by double at 43-21. And France just couldn’t catch up. The team’s defense rallied until the end of the game, only allowing France to score six points in the last quarter.
The men’s team also dominated the court against host country Brazil, playing them for the fourth time in Paralympic history.
The players got off to a strong start, widening their lead against Brazil to 39-16 by half-time. Brian Bell scored 15 points alone in the first half, some of those free throws.
The Brazilian fans tried to distract Bell and knock him off his game, but that only energized him.
“I was feeding off of it. It’s amazing playing in the arena with that many fans and that much energy, even though it’s against you,” Bell said of the crowd.
By half-time, the stands had filled up to a little over 56-percent. Venue officials said roughly 9,000 tickets had been sold, and the stadium holds about 16,000 people. But the fans didn’t seem to notice. They cheered on the home team for every single point they scored, even though Brazil trailed the entire game.
“That atmosphere was unbelievable. We did get off to a good start, but when they made that first shot and the stadium erupted, it was unlike anything I had been a part of,” said co-captain Steve Serio.
And the momentum of the team didn’t die down in the second half. Serio led the team’s defense with 7 assists and 7 rebounds overall. Even though the line-up changed several times, the team continued a strong offense, with Josh Turek scoring 15 points.
Team USA won 75-38 and inch closer to the quarter-finals.
“Our strength is our closeness as a team. We love playing together and training together. We bring out the best out of each other,” said Serio. “It’s our closeness that’s going to carry us far in this tournament.”
Womens: USA vs. France (93-37)
Mens: USA vs. Brazil (75-38)
The U.S. Women’s Team will be playing Algeria on Saturday, September 10th at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
The U.S. Men’s Team don’t have a chance to rest and will be playing Germany on Friday, September 9th at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.