USA Advances to Pan American Championships
By Chris Kaftan
PRAIA GRANDE, BRAZIL: June 22, 2012-- Utilizing its deep bench and balanced scoring attack, the United States rolled over Canada in the men’s basketball semifinal match last night, 96-37. With the win, the United States advances to the gold medal match against Venezuela and has secured an automatic berth from the Pan American confederation for the 2013 Summer Deaflympics.
In the scoring affair, forward Joe Estep led the Americans with 16 points and seven rebounds. Forward Orion Palmer assisted with 15 points and eight rebounds. The two centers for the United States, Bradley Miller and Steve Valencia-Biskupiak contributed 11 and 10 points, respectively. USA sharpshooter Wally Reyes chipped in with 10 points. All 11 players on the USA roster scored in the game.
"We worked on our game plan tonight and prepared our action for Venezuela, said head coach Keith Westhoelter. “The guys were really excited about our game plans and worked on the things that we need to be done because we wanted to make a statement, and we came here to win the gold medal as a team," said Westhoelter.
Canada drained a three-pointer on their first possession of the game to gain a brief lead over the United States. The USA quickly regained the lead and dominated the entire first half by scoring 61-8.
"I am happy with the ball movements especially our passing to the middle [around the free throw line], that we are needed to improve in the particular area", said Westhoelter.
"At the beginning of the game we focused on different defensive schemes, rebounding and passing to the middle that Coach Westhoelter wanted us to work on," said Deaflympian veteran Bradley Miller. "We are sharing the ball more and just getting more done as team"
In the third quarter, the United States outscored Canada, 20-15 and padded their lead with a 59-point margin. Canada played stubborn in the fourth quarter and tied with the United States, 15-15.
"We wanted to build a strong team chemistry, " said guard Derek Keels. "The coaches wanted us to play with character and sportsmanship in the second half. We have accomplished that with class. I have learned a lot about the game of basketball from our coaches."
"Derek is an amazing and humble ball player," said Westhoelter.
Keels nearly scored a quadruple with 10 steals, eight assists, eight rebounds and eight points. As a team, the United States had 36 assists, 41 rebounds and 21 steals.
"We are going to play the hardest we have ever since we started training camp in California nearly three weeks ago,” said Westhoelter. "Everybody here is dedicated to winning nothing but gold!"
The gold medal contest will be a rematch against Venezuela, the number two ranked team in the world. Venezuela advanced to the gold medal game after defeating Argentina, 78-65. Last Sunday, USA defeated Venezuela 76-67.
The game will be on tonight at 7 p.m. Brazilian time (1+ EDT). Updates will be made available via Twitter (@USADSF) and Facebook on our page (USA Deaf Sports Federation).