Ariake Arena, competition day 11 and it’s finally time for the first medal decider of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games wheelchair basketball competition. The women’s bronze medal game, which was a rematch between the teams who battled for Gold in Rio, USA and Germany, now battling for Bronze.
The US were the slightly fresher and more dynamic of the two teams, allowing them to get into a smoother game flow early on. At the end of the first quarter, the US rhythm translated to a 7 point lead, 13-20.
Germany used the quarter break efficiently to adjust their game and went for a 6-0 run in the first 3 minutes of the second quarter to bring it back to a one-point game(19-20). The USA, however, answered straight back with a direct 8-0 run. This instant reaction gave the US team the biggest lead of the game at this stage (19-29).
At halftime, there was a 7 point difference (25-31). The US team benefited from Lindsay Zurbrugg who was on fire in the first half as she scored 17 of their 31 points. On Germany’s side, it was Mareike Miller, who made sure to keep her team within reach for the bronze medal – 12 points at halftime.
Both teams returned to the court with a more defensive attitude in the second half. This defensive emphasis made the game notably more physical and limited the scoring on both sides for a majority of the third quarter. Even though Germany had some good plays and and-ones that felt like they could be the introduction to an equalizing run, the US always found an answer. Keeping Germany at a 5 point distance going into the last 10 minutes.
Germany scored the opening basket in the final quarter, making it a 3 point game, and the game had all the ingredients to make it an exciting showdown for bronze. That said, USA had different ideas and instead went on a 10-2 run in the subsequent minutes. USA simply displayed a more creative and versatile team basketball – which remained unmatched by the Germans. Germany were forced into a stop-the-clock strategy, but the Americans remained strong from the line to end the game with a 51-64 victory for the USA and the Bronze medal.
For Germany’s women’s team, it will be the first time since Athens 2004 that they return from a Paralympic Games wheelchair basketball competition without a podium finish.
USA’s Rose Hollermann netted a triple-double (12 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists), was extremely proud of her teams’ achievement:
“It’s awesome. To me it doesn’t matter the colour of it.
“It’s amazing that we came here with such a young group and we ended up leaving with a medal.”
For a full wheelchair basketball schedule and results click here.
Photo: Shingo Ito X-1/ Quote OIS