Brian Bell shoots against Spain during the men's wheelchair basketball semifinal at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 3, 2021 in Tokyo.
Team USA kept its hopes of defending its Paralympic title alive in men’s wheelchair basketball when it defeated Spain 66-52 in the first semifinal on Friday at Tokyo’s Ariake Arena. The game marked a rematch of the Paralympic gold-medal game from five years ago in Rio, which the U.S. won by a nearly identical score of 68-52.
“It’s been the greatest honor of my career to say that I can lead Team USA,” said captain and four-time ParalympianSteve Serio following the victory. “This is a special group, down to every player, down to the staff that we have, and the people supporting us behind the scenes.”
Powered by a 24-point second quarter and 33 points from its bench, the U.S is now guaranteed a 14th Paralympic medal in men’s wheelchair basketball with the potential to win its ninth gold.
Seven different U.S. players scored in the semifinal, as Brian Bell, Jacob Williams and Matt Scott all finished in double digits. Bell, a father of five who lost his leg in a train accident, amassed 20 points in addition to grabbing a team-lead 11 rebounds.
“It was a great accomplishment in Rio (to win gold), but to get to the final game (at Tokyo 2020), it’s been a challenge,” Bell said. “Everyone’s gone through pressures during the pandemic, so being able to come together without as many games as a team and not as much preparation and get to the final again shows a lot about our team.”
Williams finished with 16 points, and five-time Paralympian Scott with 12.
Eleven different athletes saw playing time in the semifinal for the U.S., which converted on 50 percent of its shots from the field. The U.S. led for all but two minutes on the court, and was ahead by as many as 25 points during the contest.
Alejandro Zarzuela Beltran led Spain with 17 points.
The U.S. will now face the winner of Japan-Great Britain in the final on Sunday. Team USA previously met Great Britain in the preliminary round, with Team GB claiming a one-point win in a rematch of the 2018 world championships title game.
The last time the U.S. won consecutive Paralympic golds was when it went back-to-back in 1972 and 1976.
“This entire USA basketball family has had my back this entire time and I want to do everything I can to bring back that gold medal for them and everyone back at home, not just for my own personal journey but the journey that we’ve all been on together,” said Scott, who had spent four months in the hospital in 2018 after suffering from an illness.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo-2020-Paralympic-Games to view the medal table and results.