Rose Hollermann reaches for the ball during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 26, 2021 in Tokyo.
In hopes of defending its 2016 Paralympic gold medal, the U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team pitched a first quarter shutout and posted a convincing 62-21 victory over Algeria on Sunday in the final game of preliminary round play at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza.
The U.S. ended Group B play in third place with a 2-2 record. China topped the group at 4-0, and the Netherlands was second at 3-1.
Next up for the Americans is a quarterfinal game against Canada, which finished second in Group A with a 3-1 record. Germany won that group with a 4-0 mark.
Since 1988, either Canada or the U.S. has won all but one Paralympic gold medal, with Canada taking three and the U.S. four. The lone exception was Germany in 2012.
“It means we might get a little bit of a tougher match-up in the quarters, but you’ve got to go through anyone to get to the gold-medal game,” Canada’s Kathleen Dandeneau said.
The U.S. gave the Algerians no breathing room at all from the outset, racing to an 18-0 lead after the first quarter. The Americans pushed that to 32-5 at halftime.
Algeria clearly felt the U.S. pressure, turning the basketball over 24 times and shooting just 17 percent from the field.
Chicago native Ixhelt Gonzalez led a balanced U.S. offense with 14 points and added nine rebounds. Lindsey Zurbrugg of Portland, Oregon, contributed 10 points. All 12 players on the U.S. roster scored during the game.
“Any player on this team can have a big night (on) any given night,” Team USA’s Natalie Schneider, a four-time Paralympian, said earlier in the tournament. “And when we’re playing at our best, we have several players in double figures (in scoring). Everyone on our team is an offensive threat.”
This game was a far cry from the previous U.S. performance against China on Saturday. After leading 21-7 at halftime, the U.S. collapsed in the second half and lost in heartbreaking fashion, 42-41.