BEIJING, China -The U.S. Women's Wheelchair Basketball Team escaped its opening game of the 2008 Paralympic Games with a slim 42-38 victory over Germany on Monday. Team USA battled back from a 12-point, first quarter deficit and overcame serious offensive struggles to earn the win.
"We knew that Germany was going to come out fighting hard and they did," said U.S. co-captain Patty Cisneros (Champaign, Ill./Lake Station, Ind.). "We just reminded each other that we weren't going to win the game in the first quarter and kept chipping away and chipping away. We trusted each other and felt confident in what we were doing and got the victory."
The Germans dominated the early goings, forcing the U.S. out of its rhythm and playing the style and tempo of game to its liking. But, a second quarter line-up substitution by head coach Ron Lykins (Stillwater, Minn.) changed the U.S. attack and turned the momentum in favor of the defending gold medalists. The team put on a full-court press and made the Germans start working from end-to-end.
Though woeful shooting plagued the U.S. throughout the game - the team finished with 26% FG on 16-of-61 shooting - the press created turnovers and wore down Germany in a hurry. The Germans were clearly tired by halftime and the U.S. had cut the gap to just three points, heading into the break down 26-23.
"We've played well all year, then we come in to our first game of the Paralympics and all of a sudden we're down 14-2 right off the bat," said Lykins. "But, we hung in there, didn't pack it in and had a resolve to play better."
Team USA's defense continued to shine in the second half. The U.S. played a full-court press for the remainder of the game and executed consistently to completely exhaust the Germans. Christina Ripp (Littleton, Colo./Dane, Wis.), playing in her third Paralympic Games, said it was that defense that keyed the victory, especially since the shots weren't falling on the other end.
"We know we're an awesome defensive team, that's how we fight and we were incredibly tenacious out there tonight," said Ripp. "[Head coach] Ron [Lykins] always tells us that even when we can't get anything going on offense, we can always rely on the strength of our defense."
Despite the tough night shooting, Ripp led the team with 11 points and five assists and Sarah Castle (Champaign, Ill./Centennial, Colo.) added eight points and five rebounds.
The U.S. continues pool play against Australia on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at 3:30 p.m. at the Beijing Science & Technology University Gymnasium.
For more information, or to arrange an athlete interview, please contact Susan Katz 139-1075-4845 (Dial 011-86 plus the local number if calling from the U.S.).