Strong defensive effort brings victory for USA
By Chris Kaftan
PRAIA GRANDE, BRAZIL: 16 June 2012 – Behind a balanced scoring effort from all players on the roster, the USA Deaf Men’s Basketball team cruised past Mexico 100-27 in the second game for both teams at the 5th Pan American Games for the Deaf in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
With six players scoring in double digits, the win improved the United States to 2-0 heading into a crucial matchup against the #2 ranked team in the world, Venezuela. USA is ranked #3 behind Venezuela.
“I am pleased with the team’s performance and chemistry,” said guard Jonathan Valencia, who led the team in scoring with 19 points and five assists. “We played unselfishly and made extra passes to open teammates.”
The United States started off the game on a scoring offense while featuring different defensive schemes as head coach Keith Westhoelter continued to experiment with different trap and zone defenses. At the end of the first quarter, the United States was leading 38-14.
The team was slow to start the second quarter, and Westhoelter called a timeout to make adjustments on offense. That timeout gave the United States a chance to recollect themselves and enter halftime with a 56-20 lead.
As he has emphasized over the past week in training camp and in all of his game time meetings, Westhoelter has asked for defense to be the top priority of the USA team, and they demonstrated such during the third quarter, bringing a relentless defensive pressure, outscoring Mexico 23-6.
“The thing that I’m most proud of is our guys never stopped playing together. It’s easy when you put a team together and things are going wrong to start pointing fingers,” said Westhoelter. “We had some great leadership tonight.”
“Coach said it best, we have to respect them,” said forward Raymond Nelson, who had eight points and six rebounds and led the team with seven assists. “It was difficult keeping up the intensity after getting a huge lead. Obviously it’s hard but we strive to think of them [Mexico] as one of the best teams so that we still come out and play hard.”
Westhoelter applauded Nelson’s focus in the game on both defense and rebounding. Nelson had two high flying two-handed dunks on fast breaks.
Orion Palmer netted 12 points, grabbed eight boards and had six steals. Steve Valencia-Biskupiak also scored 12 points. Jason Coleman, Derek Keels, Jeremias Valencia all chipped in with 10 points each.
USA faces off against Venezuela at 7pm Brazilian time (1+EDT) Sunday night. This will be a big test for the United States as the top two qualifying teams from the Pan American region will go on to the 2013 Summer Deaflympics.