U.S. & Australia Notch Wins on First Day of 2008 North American Cup

June 13, 2008, 3:46 p.m. (ET)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.-The United States and Australia each notched a win on the opening night of competition at the 2008 North American Cup at Lakeshore Foundation, an official U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site.  Australia squeaked past Canada, 44-42, and the U.S. routed Germany 62-40 on Thursday evening.

The U.S. and Germany squared off just five days ago in the championship game of the Joseph F. Lyttle World Basketball Challenge, with the Americans claiming a narrow six point victory.  U.S. head coach Ron Lykins (Stillwater, Minn.) said the strategy in that game was to push the Germans up and down the floor and use his team's speed advantage to force the pace of play.  But, tonight's strategy was just the opposite.

"We have spent a lot of our practice time this week working on our half-court defense.  The goal tonight was to stick with that defensive set and see what we were capable of doing in the half-court," said Lykins.  "Germany has two incredibly talented big girls and we didn't want them eating us up in the paint."

And, Lykins' team responded.  The U.S. held just a five point lead at halftime.  But, on the strength of its defensive game-plan and a patient, balanced attack on offense, the team doubled its lead by the end of the third quarter.  A continued solid effort in the final 10 minutes gave the U.S. the 62-40 win.

"This week's practice really paid off," said Christina Ripp (Longmont, Colo.).  "We have worked hard on fine-tuning what we do in the half-court and everything was clicking for us against Germany tonight.  We didn't have any lapses or let-ups and everybody was on the same page out there."

Australia and Canada opened the tournament with a close contest that included a lot of physical play on the inside.  Despite opening the game with a 7-0 deficit, a smart and experienced Canadian team never put itself out of contention.  Canada went on a 14-3 run in a 10:30 minute stretch spanning the first and second quarters to take a brief four point lead midway through the second.  But, turnovers plagued the world number one all night long.  Within one minute, Australia was able to tie it back up and then managed a five-point lead, 23-18, heading into halftime.  Another scoring run late in the fourth quarter put Canada in position to pull out the come-from-behind victory, but solid free throw shooting by the Aussies was the difference down the stretch.  Australia nosed out the 44-42 victory.

On Friday, June 13, games begin at 9:00 a.m. The U.S. takes on archrival Canada at 11:00 a.m. and then faces Australia at 3:00 p.m.  Competition concludes with the championship game on Saturday, June 14, at 5:00 p.m.  All games are free and open to the public.

The top four ranked women's wheelchair basketball teams in the world - #1 Canada, #2 United States, #3 Australia and #4 Germany - are competing at the 2008 North American Cup.  This competition is a key test for all teams as they prepare for the upcoming Paralympic Games in Beijing, China.

Media are welcome to attend.  Please contact Susan Katz, Communications Coordinator, at (205) 313-7434 or susank@lakeshore.org <mailto:susank@lakeshore.org>  with any media requests.

About Lakeshore Foundation, an official U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site

Lakeshore Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals with physical disabilities through fitness, recreation, and athletics.  These programs help children and adults with physical disabilities maintain healthy and active lifestyles, as well as develop stronger self-esteem and improve independent living skills.  The United States Olympic Committee designated Lakeshore Foundation an official U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site in 2003.  Along with the nation's other Olympic Training Sites, Lakeshore Foundation plays a critical role in the success of U.S. athletes.  For more information, visit https://webmail.usoc.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.lakeshore.org <https://webmail.usoc.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.lakeshore.org/> .