Fast Start for U.S. and Canada at North American Cup

June 20, 2008, 5:08 p.m. (ET)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The U.S. and Canada wheelchair basketball teams got wins early in the day during the opening rounds of competition at the 2008 North American Cup at Lakeshore Foundation, an official U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site. The Canadian rugby team also picked up a win during first round action.

In the first game on the basketball court, the U.S. beat Great Britain by the score of 80-47.  Team USA built a 43-17 halftime lead and never looked back.  U.S. head coach Steve Wilson said, "We came out to be aggressive, run our game plan and keep Great Britain thinking."   Wilson added that "the versatility of our team is key, being able to play many players. This was a good start for us."  While the U.S. took on Great Britain, Canada and Australia battled it out on court two.  The Canadians led by 14 points at the half and went on to beat the Aussies by a final score of 73-60.

In wheelchair rugby competition, the first game featured New Zealand, ranked #5 in the world, against the third-ranked Canadians. The game was tied at 17-17 at the half, but New Zealand had 4 turnovers in the third period.  Canada edged out New Zealand 38-35.

The U.S. rugby team faced New Zealand during the day's next contest.  It was a close contest for the first two periods with the U.S. taking a 14-12 lead.  But in the second half the U.S. pulled away to win by a final score of 36-27.  "We expected a battle from the defending goal medal team", said U.S. Head Coach James Gumbert.  "New Zealand has a lot of talent, but we played as well as a team as we have all year, this was a nice stop on our journey", Gumbert added.  The U.S. rugby team will next face Canada Friday night.  Two basketball games are also on the schedule for Friday night, the U.S. meets Australia and Great Britain takes on Canada.

There is more exciting competition ahead this weekend.  On Saturday, June 21, games begin at 9:00 a.m.  The day features four basketball games and three rugby contests.  In rugby, the U.S. takes on New Zealand at 9:00 a.m. and at 1:00 p.m. New Zealand plays again, taking on Canada.  The final rugby game of the day is at 5:00 p.m. when the U.S. plays Canada.  In basketball, Australia takes on Great Britain and the U.S. meets Canada at 11:00 a.m.  Two more games will be played at 5:00 p.m. , the top-seeded team takes on the fourth-seeded team and the second-seeded team plays the third-seeded team.

All teams competing in both sports are using the North American Cup as a tune-up for this September's Paralympic Games in Beijing, China.