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U.S. Women Fall To China In Wheelchair Hoops Semis, To Face Germany For Bronze

by Karen Price

Rose Hollermann controls the ball during the women's wheelchair basketball semi final match against China at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 2, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

The U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team won’t get the opportunity to defend its Paralympic gold medal.
Despite taking an early lead, the U.S. ran into a tough defense from China and fell 41-36 in the semifinal matchup on Thursday at Tokyo’s Ariake Arena. The Americans will now face Germany for the bronze medal on Saturday, and they’ll be ready.
“I’m thinking that our journey’s not over yet,” four-time Paralympian Natalie Schneider said. “We’ve still got a lot to play for, so we’ve got to just look forward and get ready for the next game. We have a really young, resilient team, so we’ll be able to bounce back.”
Both the U.S. and China were evenly matched from the field, with the U.S. shooting 32 percent and China 33. The difference came at the free throw line. Team USA had 15 fouls to China’s eight, and China converted those opportunities into 13 out of 16 points. China also out-rebounded the U.S. 34-29. 
Rose Hollermann led the U.S. in scoring with 13 points, followed by Lindsey Zurbrugg with nine and Schneider with six. Schneider led Team USA with 10 rebounds, while Hollerman had nine plus five assists, which tied for the team lead with Courtney Ryan.

Lindsey Zurbrugg shoots during the women's wheelchair basketball semi final match against China at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 2, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

After the U.S. took a 9-6 lead in the first quarter, China outscored the Americans 14-6 in the second to take a five-point lead into halftime. Zurbrugg scored early in the third quarter to cut the lead to three, and her free throw with just under five minutes in the quarter made it 23-21. But whenever the U.S. got within striking distance of tying things up, China either drew a foul or found a score to keep Team USA perpetually working from behind. 
When China pulled ahead by six on a field throw with three minutes left to play, the U.S. called a timeout. Team USA made one last push, with Zurbrugg nailing a 3-pointer to make it 35-33 with 53 seconds left in the game. However, a foul sent China to the line to essentially end the game. 
“China’s a heck of a team,” Zurbrugg, a first-time Paralympian, said. “They were number one in our pool for a reason. Their defense was putting a lot of pressure on us. We needed to keep space to run some things but we just weren’t able to execute to our full potential.”
A young team, the U.S. has only three Paralympic veterans on the squad in Hollermann, Schneider and Darlene Hunter. Next up they face Germany, which won Group A with a 4-0 record in the preliminaries then beat Spain in the quarterfinals before losing to the Netherlands 52-42 in the semifinals.
With today’s results, the sport will crown a first-time women’s champion. The Netherlands is the defending world champ and won bronze at the past two Paralympics, while China has never medaled in wheelchair basketball.
For the U.S. women, they’ll have an opportunity to their record eight medals.
“This game is over,” Hunter said. “We can’t dwell on it. I don’t even know who our opponent is for the bronze-medal game, that’s how much we focused on this game. We’re just going to regroup and make sure everyone stays positive for each other.”

Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo-2020-Paralympic-Games to view the medal table and results.


Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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