The United States recovered from a five-point deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat Japan 64-60 and win their second consecutive Paralympic gold medal in men’s wheelchair basketball at Ariake Arena on Sunday.
In a back-and-forth final that featured five ties, three lead changes and no lead of greater than eight points, USA trailed 56-51 with five minutes 39 seconds left but scored the next eight points to take control of the game and hold on for victory.
Captain Steve Serio led USA with 28 points and nine assists, including several clutch shots during the fourth-quarter comeback.
“Japan was the Cinderella story of this tournament, but you couldn’t ask for a more storybook ending for us,” Serio said.
“We didn’t get the start we wanted, but we definitely got the finish we wanted.”
Japan, whose run to the final included elimination wins over Australia and Great Britain, claimed silver to win their first Paralympic medal in men’s wheelchair basketball.
Kozai Hiroaki led Japan with 18 points, while Chokai Renshi scored eight points and added a game-high 18 rebounds.
In the bronze-medal game, Great Britain defeated Spain 68-58 after taking control in the third quarter.
“This game just came down to heart,” said Great Britain player-coach Gaz Choudhry, who scored a game-high 19 points.
World champions Great Britain entered the tournament as one of the favourites to win gold, but arrived in Tokyo without their coach Haj Bhania, who remained home after testing positive for Covid-19.
Choudhry stepped in as player-coach, led the team in scoring at 16.5 points per game and picked his teammates up after a disappointing semifinal loss to Japan on Friday.
“We relied on that experience of being resilient and being courageous,” Choudhry said.
“It definitely feels like more than a bronze.”