The final showdown of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games wheelchair basketball competition was to be the gold medal moment of truth for Japan as they faced the USA.

USA’s clear goal was to defend their Gold medal status from Rio 2016. Japan, on the other hand, looked to clinch what would be an extraordinary Gold medal for the hosts of these Games. 

Japan started the game by underlining their serious intentions on the Gold. An opening 3-pointer from Reo Fujimoto initiated an 8-0 head start for Japan. After a slow start, Team USA gradually started to get into their routines and shot-by-shot found their way back into the game. To bring the game back to 18-18 after the first 10 minutes.

With the score equalized, the teams restarted the second quarter. What followed was a great display of our sport. Solid defense and high paced team-oriented plays in offense. Both teams played large rotations and diversified their scoring mechanisms. The flow of the game made the first half fly by in the glimpse of an eye. USA gained a little momentum with a 9-1 run towards the end of the second quarter and went into halftime leading by 6, 32-27. 

Japan had the first possession in the second half and Kiyoshi Fujisawa used it to cut the lead to 3 points. Another quarter, another reason to love wheelchair basketball. Two teams battling fairly and at the highest level for the Paralympic Gold medal. Just as it seemed that the USA would be in a position to build up a more relevant lead, Japan turned the momentum in their favour. Coming from a 33-39 deficit, they themselves went on a 8-0 run and by doing so, took back the lead at 39-41.

The final quarter of the Tokyo 2020 wheelchair basketball competition and it was Japan started it with a one-point lead (45-46) and a home-court advantage. As the critical mass of Japanese delegations, volunteers and others who created a final worthy atmosphere at Ariake Arena. Despite the animated atmosphere, the US team would not allow the Japanese to draw out a big lead and so it was Steve Serio who equaled the score at 50-50 with a beautiful reverse lay-up and-one. What followed was a worth-watching final minutes thriller. With 48 seconds on the game clock, Serio hit a big 24-sec buzzer beater giving the US a 61-58 lead. USA, led by Serio, remained calm in crunch time and as Japan sent them to the line.

USA’s Co-Captain Serio, was Mr Clutch and man of the game as he hit the decisive free throws and dropped a total of 28 final points.

The USA were victorious beating Japan 64-60 and crowned Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Wheelchair Basketball Gold medalist. They repeat their successful Goldrush from Rio 2016. Japan on the other hand, with tears running down their faces, should be proud of the performance they have put on. The host has put on an incredible show and consequently, their achievements are entirely justifiably rewarded with a historic silver medal.

For a full wheelchair basketball schedule and results click here.

Photo: Shingo Ito X-1/ Quote OIS