TOKYO, Japan —The United States men’s wheelchair basketball team moves to the gold medal match after a decisive win against Spain for 66-52. Team USA had its best performance so far in the tournament, stepping up game after game to try to confirm their status as Paralympic champions. 

“I mean, our team stepped up huge today, contributions from all across the board,” Matt Scott said. “Our guys had a great game today. And we hope to have a great game and the Gold Medal Game as well.”

Overall, Team USA dominated the match. However, each quarter told a different story. In the first quarter, it was a close game between the two teams, Spain took a short lead, only four points. The U.S. closed the gap and took the lead, also thanks to an incredible performance of both Steve Serio and Brian Bell. 

Matt Scott of Team USA drives through the lane for the shot on September 3, 2021 during the Semi-final vs. Spain. (PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine)

When there was only one minute left in the first quarter, Spain had the chance to tie back the game, but it missed and it did not manage to come back into the game.

The second and third quarters were those where Team USA dominated and created a comfortable gap that would become essential in the fourth quarter, the only one where Spain outscored the Americans. 

“They raised the defensive intensity a lot, [in the second quarter],” Jordi Ruiz Jordan said. “And I had the sensation that we couldn’t score as much as we did in other games and they were scoring easily.”

“We weren’t ourselves in offense, due to their defense.”

Brian Bell dribbles the ball during matchup with Spain in the semi-final. September 3, 2021 (PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine)

At the end of the second quarter, Team USA was leading by seven points, while at the end of the third quarter, the U.S. had extended the lead to 24 points. In those two quarters, it seemed everything was coming very easy for Team USA, while Spain was struggling more to score, and for as much as they tried, the ball was not dropping for them. 

“Our drive on the team is defense,” Scott said. “And I feel like you know, in order to win the game, you have to you have to get stops. So, our team has really been focused on the defensive end, and that’s what got it done today.”

Team USA played an intense game, and did not let pass by any chance they had to pressure the Spanish team. 

“They always play pretty high intensity with the chair contact, and they have many players who do that and they keep changing them. So you’re getting tired and everyone that goes on court [for USA] keeps that level high,” Ruiz Jordan said.

In the fourth quarter, Spain played much better and finally worked out how to improve their offense against the “best defense in the world.” Perhaps, it was also due to Team USA relaxing a bit more and pushing less in the beginning of the last quarter. 

Ryan Neiswender (USA) holds the ball while being guarded by Spain on September 3, 2021. (PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine)

Although the European team managed to score 10 points more than the US in the fourth quarter, it was not enough for Spain to really come back in the game. 

Team USA will play for the gold medal against Japan, the host team, on Sunday, September 5 at 12.30 Japan Standard Time.

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