In the second women’s semi-final of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games wheelchair basketball competition, China challenged the reigning Paralympic Gold Medalist, USA, in their first-ever Paralympic semi-final. 

China, who were so far undefeated in this event, had already pulled a 1-point upset against the USA on the opening night of the competition.

As per usual, China focused on their defensive efforts. The US team managed to lock their own basket down in a similar fashion and consequently, the spectators witnessed a very low scoring game. Score at halftime as little as 15-20 in China’s favour. 

Also in the second half, the paint on both sides of the court was entirely locked down and there were no easy buckets for either side. With no access to close-range shots, the game became a midrange shootout. Considering the tight and yet clean defensive efforts by both teams, the shooting percentages plunged and were stuck somewhere around 30% throughout the game. With China playing the entire game with their starting five and USA also going for a small 6 person rotation, the game saw little tactical change.

An and-one by Rose Hollermann with 1 minute and 56 seconds to go and an important 3-pointer by Lindsey Zurbrugg with 53 seconds on the clock kept the US team within reach (33-35). Following a time out, the US team sent 3 different Chinese players to the line, but all of them remained ice-cold and scored 2 free throws each. Even the clutch 3 pointer from Darlene Hunter could not prevent the US loss – final score 36-41. 

China’s Suiling Lin, elated by the win, said:

“The win means the Chinese wheelchair basketball team can be better and better in the future and we have more confidence in ourselves and we will fight for the gold medal.”

“We kept the USA players far from the hoop and we kept communicating all through the game and we had good teamwork.”

China remains unbeaten and secures their first ever Paralympic wheelchair basketball medal. On Saturday, they shall take on the Netherlands to determine the metal of their medal. Whilst USA will have to beat Germany if they want to bring home the bronze medal. 

Ahead of the final against the Netherlands, Lin added:

“We will summarise the lessons we learned from the previous game (China beat the Netherlands 45-38 in group play) and we want to regain our composure, play calm and firmly and struggle for the gold medal.”

The Bronze and Gold games will take place Saturday 4 September:

17:45 – Germany v USA
20:30 – China v Netherlands

For a full wheelchair basketball schedule and results click here.

Photo: Shingo Ito X-1/ Quote OIS