TOKYO, Japan — Team USA came into Saturday morning’s game against China in the middle of Group B, looking up to an undefeated Chinese team that had suffocated their opponents thus far with excellent high-press defense. It was a must win for the Women’s USA Wheelchair Basketball Team.
They fell just short, losing 41-42.
The United States couldn’t have asked for a better start. Courtney Ryan scored 14, doubling that of the entire Chinese team as they went into the second quarter.
China’s hallmark high-line defense kept them in it, smothering the United States in their own half and forcing two 8-second violation turnovers. But they couldn’t capitalize, missing their first 17 field goals and making only two free throws in the first quarter.
The United States stuck to excellent ball rotation around the key and, once they figured out how to navigate the press defense from China, had no trouble taking shots. While it wasn’t their best, their 10 for 25 from the field was enough to grind out a 21-7 lead going into the second half.
China looked alot better in the third quarter. Their shots started to land, and a 6-0 run coming out of the locker room forced the United States to call their first timeout. Great offensive rebounding and cold shooting from the United States helped China chip away at the lead.
They went into the fourth only down by 6 points, 27-21. The United States needed to respond.
It would get even tighter. The United States had late turnover woes and it seemed like China couldn’t miss. They tied up the game with just over 6 minutes left in the game.
Both teams fought hard down the stretch, trading points back and forth. The Americans, playing tight defense in the paint, were able to secure some critical rebounds. The Chinese answered with some spectacular shooting. The United States resorted to fouling, forcing China to score from the line instead of the field.That backfired. China’s Xiaolian Huang went 5 for 8 from the line, and China took its first lead with 2:18 left in the game. They never looked back, extending an 8-0 scoring run off of critical mistakes from the United States.
An incredible 3-point shot from Lindsey Zurbrugg at the shot clock buzzer put the United States back within 3 points with 37 seconds left. China would add to the drama, sinking two critical free throws. The United States answered back with a quick field goal, putting the game back within 3 with 20 seconds left.
China’s Huang, who was excellent all game from the line, missed both of her free throws, giving the United States a chance. That chance went wanting. The United States couldn’t land a three and settled for a two, ending the game at 41-42.
The United States isn’t out of this yet. They play Algeria in the final game of the group stage on Sunday, which is a must-win if they’re looking to go to the quarterfinals.