The first semi-final of the men’s competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games was the rematch of the Rio 2016 Gold Medal Match, as the USA took on Spain.
It was a nervous start by both teams, Spain took the early lead 8-4, but it was USA who found their outside shooting touch and went on a 9-0 run to take the lead. Boosted by vocal Spanish support in the Arena, Spain dug deep to cling on to keep themselves in the game, Spain’s Alejandro Zarzuela was the new go-to man hitting 10 of their first-quarter points to keep it just a one-point deficit, 13-14.
The second quarter was all USA, as Spain’s Oscar Trigo tried to change the lineup to get out of the USA’s press but Spain struggled to find an answer to the USA’s defensive pressure or accurate offensive play. USA outscored Spain 24-8 in the second quarter, to take a commanding 39-22 lead into halftime.
It was the same story after halftime, as Spain could not match or break the USA’s speed, dynamic and team play, which left them heading into the last quarter with a -24 deficit. Asier Garcia, the dominant man against Germany, did not find his soft touch in this game and only netted two of his 11 field goal attempts throughout the game. Overall the big occasion seemed to get to Spain who as a team shot at a significantly lower percentage (39%) missing far too many open shots.
In the end, USA could rely on the lead they had built over the first three quarters. Even as they rotated their line-up, Spain could not pull a serious threat and start what the Spanish would call “remontada”. In a very balanced and strong team effort, the USA won 52-66 against Spain and will face Japan in the final. Spain will have to beat Great Britain. If they want to go home with a medal.
Jacob Williams (16pts) and Brian Bell (20pts, 11 rebounds) led the scorers.
USA’s Captain Steve Serio explained how proud of his team he was:
“This is a special group, down to every player, down to the staff that we have, and the people supporting us behind the scenes.
“It’s been the greatest honour of my career to say that I can lead a team USA.
“Heading into another gold-medal game, I just know that we’re 12-strong as players, with a great staff behind us, and it’s going to bode well for us in the gold-medal game.”
The Bronze and Gold games will take place Saturday 4 September:
10:00 – ESP v GBR
12:30 – USA v JPN
For a full wheelchair basketball schedule and results click here.
Photo: Shingo Ito X-1/ Quote OIS