The bronze medal game in the men’s wheelchair basketball competition of the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games between Argentina and Colombia had more at stake than just the medal, with the winner also securing the final ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The enormity of the game showed in both team’s performances in a tense opening quarter with neither finding their scoring touch too keep it close as Argentina led by one, 12-13.
It was Colombia’s Jose Leep who got his eye in during the second quarter, making two long range three pointers and boosting Colombia ahead to a nine-point advantage, 30-21 at the half time break.
Again, the importance of the game impacted on each of the team’s performances as both teams looked tight with unforced errors creeping into play, as a low scoring third quarter allowed Argentina to scrabble back 5 points, 7-13, and make it a three point going into the final ten minutes.
Opening the fourth Colombia extended their lead, and as Argentina’s chased the score, they became frustrated which turned into fouls and unnecessary turnovers, but the Argentinians regained their composure and did not give up. Thanks to a long rang three pointer from Maximiliano Ruggeri they brought it back to a three point game with just 45 seconds remaining on the clock. Argentina fouled to send Colombia to the free throw line in a bit to regain possession, but Colombia’s Diaz was clinical from the line making 5/6, to clinch the win 58-51, the bronze medal and a place at the Paralympic Games.
Colombia’s Rodney Hawkins finished top scorer of the match with 18 points, followed by Argentina’s Gustavo Villafañe with 11 points.
Captain Hawkins, said following the game:
“We must thank God first, because without him we would not have been able to do this. We made mistakes but something went in our favour. As I said yesterday, we were coming to give it our all and I knew today would be our day.
“We seek to be here, that’s why we play. Beyond the preparation week they gave us, we left everything on the court today and over the course of the tournament we took the rhythm we needed. I think we played better being pushed by frustration. This is why the boys were determined to win. I could see it in their eyes. We wanted to show that Colombian basketball is still alive, and that was the most important thing for me.
“I’m glad to be able go to other Paralympic Games. I was in London and I know how it feels to compete on a big stage. I know I can do it again.”
Watch the bronze medal of the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games
Photo credit: Carlos Lezama / Lima 2019. Quote coutesy of NSLima 2019.