LONDON - In one of the surprise results of the 2012 Paralympic Games, the U.S. Paralympic Women's Wheelchair Basketball Team will leave London without a medal after falling to the Netherlands in tonight’s bronze medal match 71-47. The U.S. entered these Games as the gold medal favorite, having won in Athens and Beijing.
Despite holding the lead early on, the U.S. struggled on both ends of the floor, falling behind in the second quarter and was never able to close the gap.
The first quarter was tightly contested and featured four ties as neither team could gain a sizeable advantage. At the end of the first period, the score was again tied at 16.
Things changed dramatically for Team USA in the second quarter as the team’s shooting went cold and the Dutch charged ahead.
The U.S. scored just eight points in the second quarter on four for 11 shooting from the field. The U.S. also committed ten turnovers and fell behind by as many as 16 points at one time. The Dutch scored 22 points in the quarter, which included a 20-4 run capped off by a made shot at the buzzer by Mariska Beijer. This put the Dutch up 14 points at the halfway point, 38-24.
Head coach David Kiley knew that his team was going to have to play catch up in the second half and stressed to his players that they needed to relax and play their own game.
“I told them they were going to have to dig down, “ said Kiley. “I told them they knew what it was like to be down in a game and that they knew what it was going to take to win.”
Unfortunately for the Americans, their offensive woes continued in the second half while the Netherlands continued to shoot lights out from the field.
As a result, the U.S. could never catch up. The Dutch outscored the U.S. 20-13 in the third quarter and 13-10 in the fourth quarter.
“What we couldn’t account for was just how hot the Dutch stayed,” declared Kiley. “My hat’s off to their coach, he has done a great job with their program.”
Leading the way for the Netherlands was Beijer, who finished with 27 points and nine rebounds. Her teammate Inge Huitzing also chipped in 26 points and seven boards.
The U.S. was led in scoring by Rebecca Murray (Germantown, Wis.) who finished with 19 points on 9-for-18 shooting to go along with six rebounds and four assists. Murray led the team in scoring during the competition in London with 19.1 points per game. Natalie Schneider (Crete, Neb.) also finished in double figures with 13 points.
Despite his disappointment, Kiley is already looking ahead to the future.
“We’ll go back home and re-tool. Nobody is as deep as the United States, so I would plan on seeing a strong comeback,” said Kiley.
In the gold medal game that followed, Germany defeated Australia 58-44.