Team USA men’s wheelchair basketball defeats Turkey, 52-45
By Beatriz De La Portilla
Despite lagging behind for the first two quarters and racking up fouls for the entire duration of the game, the U.S. men’s basketball team managed to pull ahead with enough momentum to win their match against Turkey, 52-45, in the quarterfinals.
“One of our strengths is our speed and our agility, and we know that team sometimes can’t always push with us for 40 minutes,” said U.S. team captain Steve Serio.
Three fouls committed by Turkey followed one after another within the final 20 seconds of the game and led to consecutive free throws for U.S. players No. 4, Josh Turek, and No. 2, Jake Williams. They pushed the U.S. from a two-point lead of 47-45 all the way to a much more significant gap of 52-45 by the end of the game — their biggest lead during the match.
“I think that those fouls are in direct correlation with how athletic and how fast we are. It’s definitely one of the tactics that we try to implement each and every game, and today it definitely helped us,” said Serio.
They had a strong defense, but their offense had been lacking throughout the game in comparison.
“Defense is definitely where it’s at, or a good spot to be. We can definitely improve on certain things,” said Team USA’s No. 8, Brian Bell. “We can make those shots quite easily. We got most of the shots we wanted to, so that’s kind of a good sign. Going forward, we’ve just gotta focus a little bit more.”
Bell led the team with 18 points scored. Turkey’s team captain Özgür Gürbulak led his team’s score with 21 points.
Gürbulak is among the most experienced in his team, with two previous Paralympics and several championships under his belt. Many of the players on his team are at their first Paralympics.
“We knew that Turkey is a really talented team,” said Serio, complimenting Gürbulak in particular for being a very skilled player. “We knew that it was going to take [effort from] all of us, and it was going to take all 40 minutes, but we’re just happy to come away with a victory.”
The U.S. men’s wheelchair basketball team was the first to move on to the semifinals, and Serio assures that the team is doing its homework in preparation.
“All the teams are good; all the teams are talented. We’re going to continue to focus on ourselves. We have to go back and watch the game tape from this game,” said Serio.
According to the Serio, they’ll be ready for their next match when it comes.
“The teams that have been successful are the teams that have been constantly improving each and every day. So, no matter who we play in the semis, we’re going to come in with the best versions of ourselves, because we’re going to correct some of the mistakes that we made today,” said Serio.
They’ll be going up against Spain in two days on Sept. 3; the time is yet to be determined.