TOKYO, Japan —- After a not so perfect pool stage, the U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team stepped up and qualified for the semifinals by playing their best match so far in this Paralympic Games.
The first quarterfinal was a North American battle among two historic rivals as the United States played Canada at the Ariake Arena, winning 63-48.
Team USA will play for medals at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“It feels awesome to know that our journey keeps on going,” Rose Hollermann, the top scorer (19 points), said.
“Obviously, that’s been our goal this whole time,” co-captain Natalie Schneider added.
“And it hasn’t even been four years, it’s been five years now that this has been the focus. And so getting to play potentially for a medal is just, it’s the dream, and I’m so excited for our team.”
The contest remained close through the first quarter, ending with the U.S. ahead by two points with a score of 10-12. Each country struggled to score with continuity. For more than four minutes, neither made a bucket; possibly, needing to find the right rhythm for the first elimination match of the Games.
In the second quarter, Canada closed the gap and tied the match, just briefly before Team USA took the lead again. Soon Team USA had a 10-point advantage that became essential for the rest of the match.
In both the third and fourth quarters, the U.S. stayed ahead of Canada without much difficulty. Although the pace at which each team scored in the second half ebbed and flowed, Canada never really came back in the game.
For Team USA, who more than once stated their will and ambition to win the gold medal, this game showed clearly that the pool round and the elimination rounds are two different types of competitions.
Team USA was not convincing in pool play, as they lost to both China and the Netherlands, but the performance against Canada showed how the team stepped up when it counted the most.
“I think we’re just continuing to believe in ourselves and knowing that if we keep sharpening up the type of offensive set and defensive set that our coach Trooper [Lawrence Johnson] wants us to run, that we’re going to be successful here. And I think just changing a couple of things here and there is really making us be successful,” Hollermann said at the end of the match.
Team USA will play the winner between China and Great Britain, but the players did not seem worried about who will be their opponents in the semifinal.
“I think we’ve got to just keep playing our game and focus on ourselves,” Hollermann said.
“I think just moving forward, it’s continuing to do what we know makes successful.”
During this match, not every player had their chances on the court; however, Team USA was playing as if there were 12 players on the court with the entire bench loudly cheering and supporting their teammates.
The USA women’s wheelchair basketball team will play the semifinal on Thursday, September 2. The opponent and the time of the match have yet to be determined.
For more photos of the event, please check out the galleries at photos.wheelchairsportsfederation.org.