Army improves to 2-0 in wheelchair basketball

By Katherine Keel | May 14, 2013, 11 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. ― Day 3 of the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte proved to be one of the most exciting, as competition in wheelchair basketball became even fiercer than before with only one round remaining until Wednesday’s medal games.  

Army proved its dominance on the court, steamrolling the Marine Corps in an easy 49-28 victory. With the win, Army improves its record to 2-0 on the week, making it a gold medal favorite.  

In the 2012 Warrior Games, Army and Marines branches battled it out during the gold medal match, which resulted in a landslide victory for Army. Though the Marine Corps (1-1) arrived weeks ago in Colorado Springs, Colo., to begin training and avenge last year’s loss, Army’s skills on the court left the Marines struggling to stay in the game.

After winning silver in the shooting event for the Marines on Tuesday, Private First Class Artem Lazukin (El Cajon, Calif.) showcased his wheelchair basketball skills Wednesday but was disappointed with the outcome.

“This year, our team cohesion is better than ever before,” Lazukin said, “And we've really worked hard to stick it to Army and give them a good game, but unfortunately we had some trouble with the refs and that’s really what sank us tonight.”

For the Marines, veteran Anthony McDaniel (Chula Vista, Calif.) emerged as the top scorer, amassing 10 points during the game, along with a few crucial assists. The Marines’ second-highest scorer, veteran Josue Barron (San Diego, Calif.), had 8 points for the night.

Veteran Anthony Pone (Fort Worth, Texas), who has appeared in three Warrior Games, was the lead scorer for Army, totaling 17 points against the Marines. His long wingspan and large stature proved an asset, as he blocked shots and forced turnovers throughout the game.

Army’s second-highest scorer was veteran Juan Soto (Arlington, Texas), who finished the night with 13 points.

“Basically, we arrived in Colorado Springs ready to work and had a few really tough practices,” Army veteran Chuck Armstead (Killeen, Texas) said. “We adjusted some things, spent more time on the court working out the kinks and it’s paying off for us.”

Army coach Sgt. Dennis Ramirez added, “Clearly, something is working for us, so we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. Our team is relaxed and excited to compete in the championships tomorrow and we’re going to give it all we’ve got to win gold.”

In the other gym, Air Force took on Navy in a heated game that resulted in an eventual victory for Navy. Both teams played solid defense, but Navy emerged victorious in a 33-18 win.

Navy’s high scorer was retired Navy Aviation Electrician’s Mate Steven Davis (Turlock, Calif.), who had 12 for the night, while teammate retired Navy Chief Gunner’s Mate Hector Varela (Temecula, Calif.) scored 8.

Air Force had three key scorers tonight, with four points each: retired Staff Sgt. Jason Ellis (Riverview, Fla.), Master Sgt. Ken Gestring (Niceville, Fla.) and former Staff Sgt. Claude Owens (Beavercreek, Ohio).

Navy improves to a record of 2-1, while Air Force drops to 0-2 for the week. 

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