BIRMINGHAM, Ala.-For the second time in two weeks the United States and Germany faced off in the championship game of a key Paralympic Games tune-up competition. And, for the second straight time the U.S. team claimed victory. The Americans defeated Germany, 50-37, on Saturday evening to win the 2008 North American Cup at Lakeshore Foundation, an official U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Site. The U.S. completed the tournament with a 5-0 record.
"This has been a critical two week period in our preparations for Beijing," said U.S. head coach Ron Lykins (Stillwater, Minn.). "We learned a lot about ourselves during this time, especially in a game like this where we played well, but had stretches where we struggled and had to get ourselves back on track."
The U.S. was out of sync early, going down 6-0 in the opening minutes of the game. Then the home team put its own six point run together to end the quarter down just two points, 8-6.
Lykins rotated in a new line-up to start the second quarter and Christina Ripp (Longmont, Colo./Dane, Wis.) provided some instant offense. Ripp scored six of her eight points in the first five minutes of the frame and the U.S. was able to generate a 19-12 halftime lead.
"Sometimes it's going to happen that we're out there and seeing things differently," said U.S. co-captain Patty Cisneros (Champaign, Ill./Lake Station, Ind.). "When we're out of rhythm like that it's definitely going to slow us down. Though, I think the team did a great job of working to get out of that rut and bounce back to play our game in the second half."
The U.S. settled into its game plan during the third quarter and at one point ran its lead all the way to 20. This margin seemed like a comfortable cushion for the defending Paralympic champions, but during a seven minute stretch spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters the Germans put on a 16-5 run that cut the deficit to just nine points.
As Germany closed in, the U.S. stayed cool. With five minutes left in the game the U.S. put a stop to the Germans' comeback and put the lead back to double-digits, finishing with the 50-37 win.
"It definitely got choppy out there for us," said All-Tournament Team selection Stephanie Wheeler (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Norlina, N.C.). "We knew there would come a time when they would get hot and it was up to us to fight through that and stay patient. It was good to see that nobody panicked out there."
The U.S. was led by 2008 North American Cup MVP Jennifer Ruddell (Champaign, Ill.) with 14 points and teammates Ripp, Wheeler and Loraine Gonzales (Ft. Worth, Texas) each chipped in with eight points.
In the consolation game, Canada defeated Australia, 50-37, to finish in third place.
The top four ranked women's wheelchair basketball teams in the world - #1 Canada, #2 United States, #3 Australia and #4 Germany - competed at the 2008 North American Cup. This competition was a key test for all teams as they prepare for the upcoming Paralympic Games in Beijing, China.
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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.