United States men produced an incredible game of tactics and defence to pip Great Britain by just one point 67-66 in a nail-biting final at the IWBF Wheelchair Basketball World Championships on Tuesday evening.
With the win, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic champions USA also avenged their 2018 Worlds loss to Great Britain and became the world champions for the seventh time, the maximum by any team in a world championship, at a packed World Trade Centre Halls.
Down 32-43 at half-time, USA made some adjustments and returned to the match with some renewed energy and strong defence. At the third quarter, they led by one joint only to maintain that lead. Meanwhile, they pressed on Great Britain offence, hardly allowed them to score. The final quarter was an even show.
Brian Bell top scored for USA with 18 points, while Trévon Jenifer and Steve Serio contributed with 16 points. Gregg Warburton’s 24 was the top score in the match but still wasn’t enough to take Great Britain through. He, however, made it to the Men’s All Stars team alongside teammate Philip Pratt.
“Great Britain were the defending champions, and we knew it was coming down to the last minute. We are just so fortunate to come out with a victory and we are so proud of our team.
“The best part of our team is our resilience. The ability to play our best when the game gets the hardest. We were down at half-time; we made some adjustments. Our coach did a great job of making those adjustments and putting us in a position to be successful. And, the athletes responded well,” said an elated Serio whose final campaign was laced by three 3-pointers.
Head coach Robert Taylor highlighted it was USA’s defense again that stepped up when needed. “We just tried to keep pace with Great Britain; stuck to the gameplan. Like I said before, we trust each other. Even if we were down, we believed in each other, in our style and system and we believed that we could come back at any point.”
“I’m just speechless,” said an ecstatic USA coach adding that their focus is on the Parapan American Games next.
Invincible Dutch women
Before USA men’s phenomenal show, Dutch women continued their invincible run and defended their title in style at the World Trade Centre Halls. The Paralympic champions defeated China 57-34, in a repeat of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games finals result, stamping their dominance in women’s wheelchair basketball.
The Netherlands women were off to a strong start, even came with a clinical show in the second quarters as they entered the half-time leading 31-17.
Said an emotional Mariska Beijer, who top scored for the Netherlands with 22 points, “I am very happy. First, I was excited to make it to six finals in a row –Worlds, European C’ships and Paralympic and then win the six titles in a row. This is unbelievable. We want to continue this winning momentum.
“We had a great preparation. We had a clear game plan and executed; we made the basketball drop in the basket and we won.”
“For me, personally it was quite hard to be here and to be fit as I was sick last year. It took me around 11 months to be back in action, first quarantine and then rehabilitation. So, this is a special win,” the experienced Beijer said.
For China, Suiling Lin had a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) but still it fell short. Despite the loss, China however took home their first ever medal at a Worlds and won a lot of hearts among the crowd.
USA women end 13-year wait
USA women also brought home some cheers settling for the bronze defeating Germany 57-42, thanks to Rose Marie Hollermann’s double – double (14 points, 12 rebounds).
“We are ecstatic about this team. We are very happy; almost forgotten that this medal has come after a long time. 13 years is a long time that we have won a medal at Worlds and the core group of girls have spent the time together. Great way to finish the tournament,” said a joyful Christina Schwab, USA head coach.
“We made a few adjustments, we put a press on the Germans, something we haven’t done before. It shows that we have a spark in our defence. The girl really executed the plans so well. I am so proud of them,” said the coach on the match.
Historic bronze for Iran men
Earlier, Iran men pulled off a 72-54 win over the Netherlands to take a historic bronze medal and stamp their stature at one of the best teams in the world. This was Iran’s first medal in a World Championships.
Iran were led by Morteza Abedi’s double-double (19 points, 18 rebounds) while their star player Omid Hadiazhar contributed with 11 points. Dutch player Mendel Op den Orth top scored in the match with 24 points but couldn’t take his team through. He also made it to the Men’s All-Star Team.
Netherlands’ Robin Poggenwisch also stole the show with three 3-pointers despite on a losing cause.
A happy Iran head coach Mohammadreza Dastyar said: “We analysed Netherlands’ game and planned accordingly. A night before the match, I told my boys that we need to control the game, play with mind and not with heart. It was a good win and overall great Championships with my young players including 18-year-old Abolfazl Jalaei getting great learning experiences.
“The players are working hard and many seniors players are playing in different European countries like Turkey, Spain and bringing club experience to the team,” said Dastyar appreciating the hard work of the assistant coaches.
“This team started training only after October 2022 and the level of game they are playing, I can say – we are ready to defend the title in Hangzhou 2022. We want to continue this momentum to Hangzhou.”
A closing ceremony was held after the medal matches, attended by Chairman of the Championships Thani Juma Berregad, IWBF President Ulf Mehrens, Director of the Championships and Asian Paralympic Committee President Majid Al Usaimi, besides various prominent names in the UAE.
Around 350 players from 20 nations, representing 28 teams (16 men, 12 women) took part in these 12-day World Championships, which witnessed amazing matches highlighted by intensity, grit and determination, at the World Trade Centre Halls that concluded last evening.
USA 67 – Great Britain 66
Bronze Medal match
Iran 72 – Netherlands 54
Netherlands 57 – China 34
Bronze Medal match
Germany 42 – USA 57
To read more…
Text Credit: Priyanka Sharma / DCD
Pictures Credit: Mark Madrid / Essa Yahya / DCD