U.S. Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Defeats Algeria, Moves On To Quarterfinals

by Bob Reinert

Rose Hollermann reaches for the ball during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 26, 2021 in Tokyo.


In hopes of defending its 2016 Paralympic gold medal, the U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team pitched a first quarter shutout and posted a convincing 62-21 victory over Algeria on Sunday in the final game of preliminary round play at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza.
The U.S. ended Group B play in third place with a 2-2 record. China topped the group at 4-0, and the Netherlands was second at 3-1.
Next up for the Americans is a quarterfinal game against Canada, which finished second in Group A with a 3-1 record. Germany won that group with a 4-0 mark.
Since 1988, either Canada or the U.S. has won all but one Paralympic gold medal, with Canada taking three and the U.S. four. The lone exception was Germany in 2012.
“It means we might get a little bit of a tougher match-up in the quarters, but you’ve got to go through anyone to get to the gold-medal game,” Canada’s Kathleen Dandeneau said.
The U.S. gave the Algerians no breathing room at all from the outset, racing to an 18-0 lead after the first quarter. The Americans pushed that to 32-5 at halftime.
Algeria clearly felt the U.S. pressure, turning the basketball over 24 times and shooting just 17 percent from the field.
Chicago native Ixhelt Gonzalez led a balanced U.S. offense with 14 points and added nine rebounds. Lindsey Zurbrugg of Portland, Oregon, contributed 10 points. All 12 players on the U.S. roster scored during the game.
“Any player on this team can have a big night (on) any given night,” Team USA’s Natalie Schneider, a four-time Paralympian, said earlier in the tournament. “And when we’re playing at our best, we have several players in double figures (in scoring). Everyone on our team is an offensive threat.”
This game was a far cry from the previous U.S. performance against China on Saturday. After leading 21-7 at halftime, the U.S. collapsed in the second half and lost in heartbreaking fashion, 42-41.

Natalie Schneider shoots during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 26, 2021 in Tokyo.


The Americans were outscored 35-20 after the break. Bench scoring was a major factor in the contest as the Chinese substitutes enjoyed a 12-0 advantage over their U.S. counterparts.
While the U.S. had led by as many as 16 points, China was ahead for just over two minutes but at the game’s most critical juncture.
With only three players returning from the team that won gold in Rio, the U.S. was unable to string together consecutive wins in pool play, though it has been competitive in every loss, including an opening 68-58 defeat against the defending world champions from the Netherlands in the tournament opener last Wednesday. The young Americans placed sixth at the world championships.
After Zurbrugg torched the Dutch for 18 points in the opening half, they adjusted their defense and held her to just two points in the second half. An 18-6 fourth quarter spurt put the game away for the Netherlands.
The Netherlands had trailed the U.S. 52-50 after three quarters. There were 10 lead changes during the game, which the Americans led most of the way. The Dutch, who won the bronze medal at Rio in 2016, limited their turnovers and dominated the offensive boards against the U.S.
“A loss to start doesn’t dictate how we are going to do in the next game,” Schneider said after, “and we will remind everyone of that.”
Indeed they did. In its second preliminary game on Thursday, the U.S. cruised to a 68-34 win over Spain to even its record at 1-1. The Americans had assists on 24 of their baskets as evidence of fine overall team play. Spain led for just 30 seconds of the 40-minute contest.
With a solid lead throughout, the U.S. was able to get some of its Paralympic rookies into the game after only six played against the Netherlands.
“We were really excited to get our younger players in for their first Paralympic experience, and they did great,” Schneider said. “They stepped up well and I'm really proud of how they played.”
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit to view the medal table and results.

Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.