Marines win wheelchair basketball gold over Army at 2014 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte

By Caryn Maconi | Oct. 03, 2014, 9:50 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – On the final night of competition Friday at the 2014 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, the U.S. Marine Corps defeated defending champion Army to win gold in wheelchair basketball, 43-30.

The victory was the second for the Marines in Warrior Games history after coming up just two points short against Army in the 2013 gold-medal game, 34-32. Army owns the last three Warrior Games wheelchair basketball gold medals while the Marines won the inaugural title in 2010.

Marine Cpl. Jorge Salazar was the standout for the USMC Friday night, scoring 15 points and recording three rebounds. Sgt. Eric Rodriguez contributed 14 points of his own.

On the Army side, Sgt. 1st Class Charles Armstead led offensively with 10 points, while Sgt. Mathew Spangler added nine.

The Marines were dominant from start to finish Friday night, gaining an early 10-5 lead over Army about 10 minutes into the game and widening that gap to 21-4 by halftime. The momentum continued in the second half, as the Marines had built their lead to 13 (33-20) with seven minutes left on the clock. Army was unable to chip away at the gap, and the USMC was up 43-30 by the final buzzer.

Salazar could think of no better way to cap off his second Warrior Games than with a gold medal and the sweet feeling of redemption.

“We had a lot of fun – the biggest thing is that we had fun,” Salazar, who also competed in sitting volleyball, swimming and field events, said. “We had a tough loss to Army in the gold match last year, so it was a great feeling beating them this year. We played our hearts out.”

The Marine Cpl. was impressed with his team’s synergy on the court Friday night.

“We played as a team. We didn’t get upset with each other, we stayed focused on the game, and we worked as one team,” Salazar said. “My whole experience at the Warrior Games has been tough, but exciting. We’ve had to work very hard.”

Rodriguez was confident that the Marines could claim gold if they played as well as they had been in practice.   

“We’ve been training for almost three weeks for this, so we were confident from the beginning,” Rodriguez said. “We knew the only ones who could beat us were ourselves.”

Two-hundred wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans competed over six days of competition in the fifth annual Warrior Games. The 2014 Warrior Games is hosted by the USOC with support from Deloitte, the presenting sponsor, and other supporting partners including the Department of Defense, AT&T, BP, Dow, Semper Fi Fund, The Fisher House Foundation, The Daniels Fund and USO.

The closing ceremony of the 2014 Warrior Games and presentation for the Chairman’s Cup and Ultimate Champion awards will take place at halftime of the Navy v. Air Force football game on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

For more on the 2014 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, visit teamusa.org/warriorgames/.