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 defence 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.
Historic bronze for Iran
Before USA men’s phenomenal show, 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.”