The U.S. Paralympic Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Team is one game closer to achieving its gold medal dreams after beating Germany in the North Greenwich Arena on Wednesday afternoon. In fact, one more win would guarantee a medal for the men’s team for the first time in 12 years.
Team USA beat Germany by a score of 57-46 and benefited from a balanced scoring attack which included 10 points each from Josh Turek (Council Bluffs, Iowa), Steve Serio (Westbury, N.Y.), and Paul Schulte (Bradenton, Fla.) and another nine points from Jason Nelms (Arlington, Texas).
The win spoke volumes about Team USA’s determination and confidence in one another. Germany went into halftime up three points and midway through the third quarter, the U.S. was facing an eight point deficit. After chipping away at the lead one possession at a time, the USA was able to tie the game at 37 to finish the third quarter.
Team USA exploded offensively to start the fourth quarter, going on an 11-0 run. Guard Paul Schulte explained the change in style that led to that run, “We were able to get into the kind of game we like, which is real up tempo, real up and down, playing hard defense.”
Schulte, a veteran on the team, was instrumental in that deciding fourth quarter, stealing a German outlet pass and finding an open teammate to give the USA the lead, 39-37. The U.S. continued to press and before the Germans could do anything about it, the score jumped to 48-37 in favor of the United States.
Jason Nelms talked about finally using the press to disrupt the opponent, “Seems like we’ve been holding it back for a little while and we got to throw it out there at the end and that’s what it can do to some teams.”
Nelms, who had a big three-point play during that run, gave credit for the win to Schulte and guard Steve Serio, “It was [Steve] Serio stroking shots in the beginning, Paul [Schulte]came out there that second half leading the team and we were all feeding off of him.”
Schulte talked about that leadership and the bond he has with the other veterans on the team, “We have a number of veterans, with Will Waller, Eric Harper, and me. It’s neat to be able to be around those guys because we all started out together in 1997-1998.”
Schulte, Waller, and Harper need just two more wins to achieve their dream of Paralympic gold that is 15+ years in the making. To make it to the gold medal game, Team USA will play the winner of today’s Australia-Poland quarterfinal.
Australia is playing well and is expected to win the contest setting up a rematch with the United States. Australia beat the U.S. in group play 65-49.
Josh Turek explained how he and his teammates feel about the possibility of playing the Aussies, “We want them, to be honest with you. They are difficult and they play a very physical brand of basketball. But when we looked at the tape...we got out-muscled and out-physicalled. And we will match their physicality and go more than this game. We have seen the best they can give us, they haven't seen the best we can give them.”