U.S. Women Finish Paralympics Pool Play Undefeated
SEPT. 12, 2016, 4:02 P.M. (ET)
RIO DE JANEIRO – The U.S. Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team came out of the first half of the Paralympic Games Tournament with an unblemished record and the No. 1 seed following its defeat of Algeria, 65-15, in the Rio Olympic Arena this morning. Team USA will start in the quarterfinals on Tuesday against host country Brazil, also in Rio Olympic Arena.
Team USA started quick against Algeria with seven players seeing time on the floor and finding the basket. Two-time Paralympian Rose Hollermann of Elysian, Minnesota, scored six of her 10 points to pace the U.S. for a 19-4 first quarter advantage. Team USA continued is dominance in the second with a variety of lineup changes where 10 of the 12 rostered players getting playing time and eight scoring. At the half, Team USA is over Algeria, 31-8.
The second half belonged to the younger U.S. Paralympians who maintained a steady pace of game and sealed the United States No. 1 finish in pool play, by outscoring Algeria, 34-7. Pacing the squad was three-time U.S. Paralympian Natalie Schneider of Crete, Nebraska, who finished with 14 points. Also putting up double digits in their first Paralympic Games were: Abigail Dunkin of New Braunfels, Texas, with 13 points, and Megan Blunk of Gig Harbor, Washington, with 12 points, and is celebrating her birthday today. Team USA won the rebound game by out rebounding Algeria 53-28.
“It was fun and nice to get out there and play with my team,” said Blunk. “This has been all very exciting around here. It is big and fun to play in front of so many people. There is always a great environment to be in.”
The United States scored the second most points in pool play with 288, just behind the Netherlands’ 300 points, and shot the highest field goal percentage of 53% overall in four games. They also grabbed the second most rebounds with 176, once again behind the Netherlands, who snagged 199.
“We have been stressing to the team that the Paralympics is two tournaments and the importance of winning both. We wanted to win the first tournament, and now we need to win the second,” said U.S. Women’s Head Coach Stephanie Wheeler of Champaign, Illinois. “It was really good today to get the girls in the game who have not played a lot. Every team here deserves respect and we have to play to the best of our ability.”
The United States is now 40-22 overall in the Paralympic Games. Algeria is the 15th country that the United States has played in the Paralympic Games.
The quarterfinals are next for the United States, who will face host country Brazil on Tuesday at Rio Olympic Arena. The start time of the game is yet to be announced.
The U.S. women’s team qualified for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games by winning the 2015 Parapan American Games. The U.S. women dominated the Parapan Am competition by outscoring their opponents by 55 points per game and avenged their 2014 World Championships fourth-place finish by defeating Canada for the gold medal in Toronto, Canada.
The U.S. Women’s Head Coach is Stephanie Wheeler of Champaign, Illinois, who won two Paralympic gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Games, and will be assisted by NWBA Hall of Famer Trooper Johnson of San Lorenzo, California, and Amy Spangler of Madison, Wisconsin, with Kearstin Gehlhausen of Whitewater, Wisconsin, serving as the team leader, and Karla Wessels of Lexington, Kentucky, is the athletic trainer. Dr. Roberta Kraus of Colorado Springs, Colorado, serves as both the men’s and women’s Team Psychologist.
The U.S. Women’s team finished fourth at the London 2012 Paralympics, after claiming the gold medal at the Beijing 2008 and Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.