U.S. Remains Undefeated at 2008 North American Cup

June 14, 2008, 1:10 a.m. (ET)

U.S. Remains Undefeated at 2008 North American Cup
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.-The United States claimed two victories on Friday to run its 2008 North American Cup record to 3-0.  The U.S. edged out archrival Canada, 45-43, and took down Australia, 53-37, to finish in first place at the conclusion of preliminary round play at Lakeshore Foundation, an official U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Site.

The Americans began day two of the tournament taking on Canada.  This is a match-up with a lot of history and a lot of intensity.  Though both teams used this game as an opportunity to test different players and a combination of line-ups, Friday's contest didn't disappoint.  Behind the red-hot shooting of Misty Thomas, Canada pushed out to a 10 point lead early in the second quarter.  Then, a 14-2 U.S. run closed out the half and gave the home team a slight 26-24 advantage at the break. 

Thomas' hot hand didn't cool off during halftime.  With less than three minutes to go in the quarter, she drained a 3-point basket launched as the shot clock expired to help spark a quick 7-0 Canada run at the end of the third.  This spurt gave Canada a 37-32 lead heading into the final 10 minutes of play.

"Internationally, the offensive game is all about runs," said U.S. co-captain Patty Cisneros (Champaign, Ill./Lake Station, Ind.).  "When we're not hitting shots, we know we just have to be patient and stay calm.  The momentum is going to change and we'll get back in it."

The momentum continued to swing back and forth and it shifted to the U.S. with less than a minute remaining in the game when Thomas was called for a hard foul on Jen Ruddell (Champaign, Ill.) and Ruddell sank both free throws to tie the score at 43.  A miss by Canada on the other end and then the go-ahead bucket by Loraine Gonzales (Ft. Worth, Texas) with 16 seconds left sealed the win for the U.S., 45-43.  Thomas led all scorers with 25 points while the U.S. team was led by Ruddell with 15 points and Carlee Hoffman (Champaign, Ill./Cutlerville, Mich.) with 10 points.

"This whole game was a mental battle," said Ruddell.  "Everyone stayed focused and never worried about being down.  We know that no matter what other factors might be influencing the flow of the game, we're always in control of our mental toughness and how we're thinking and reacting out there."

The Americans are known for playing and end-to-end game with a lot of speed and defensive pressure.  But, being that the team is using this competition to tune-up its half-court defense it hasn't broken out the full-court press yet this weekend.  That changed when the U.S. squared off against Australia on Friday afternoon.  The speed of the U.S. team and the relentless pressure it applied on defense was just too much for the Aussies to handle.  The U.S. used that advantage to cruise past Australia, 53-37, and that win locked up the top seed coming out of pool play.

"We've done well so far," said U.S. head coach Ron Lykins (Stillwater, Minn.).  "When you play competition this good, you learn a lot about your team.  We've seen a number of things we're doing well and we've also seen a number of things we know we'll go back and work to improve."

The other two games of the day saw Germany polish off Australia, 50-47, and Canada, 66-54.  These wins put Germany in second place, Australia in third place and Canada in fourth place to wrap up the preliminary round.

Saturday's semifinals will feature Germany versus Australia at 9:00 a.m. and a U.S.-Canada re-match at 11:00 a.m.  Winners of these games will advance to the championship game 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 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 www.lakeshore.org