The USA defeated Japan by a score of 79 – 63 in the Gold Medal game of the 2018 Women’s U21 World Deaf Basketball Championships on the Donald Padden Court at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. The USA team was led by the outstanding inside game of Cassidy Perry (Frederick, MD), who grabbed 13 rebounds and scored 28 points as they were able to triumph over Japan.
In the opening minutes of the game, the USA defense jumped out in front, taking charge as they held Japan scoreless for the first two-and-a-half minutes of the game. The USA took the early lead, going up 10 – 4 after a series of inside-outside combo moves between Emelia Beldon (Frederick, MD) and Cassidy Perry (Frederick, MD). Beldon would go on to score 5 points and had no turnovers while dishing out 2 assists in the first. Perry would lead the USA in scoring during the first quarter with 10 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting from the field.
Though the USA scorers were able to shoot an efficient 50 percent overall from the field, their outside game was shut down as they went 0-for-4 from the perimeter; in previous games, the deadly outside shooting of USA was a large part of why they were able to build large leads early on in games. The headstrong and tenacious defense of Japan’s guards/wings were able to hold Hannah Neild (Litchfield, NH), one of the USA’s most explosive scorers in recent history, to just 2 points on 1-for-3 shooting from the field in the first quarter. By playing tenaciously on the defensive end, Japan was able to even gain the lead late in the first quarter, leading by 1 after Japan’s Hirayasu Ayane swished a nothing-but-net three pointer on a transition play with just under a minute left. The USA was able to close out the first with two quick baskets, the first by Neild inside the paint off of an assist by Beldon that made the score 17 – 16 in favor of USA. Then on the USA’s next trip back down the floor on offense, Beldon made a strong inside move, drawing the foul and then sinking both ensuing free throws to make the score 19 – 16 just as the first quarter drew to a close.
Japan would open the second quarter by responding quickly on the offensive end, with a long-range shot by Miyake Nagisa that made the score 19 – 19 with 9:30 left in the first half. That would pose to be the last time Japan would be on the cusp of taking the lead, for the explosive USA offense would go on to seize momentum and establish a firm fifteen-point lead before halftime. With the score tied up, Neild swished a long three-pointer to give the USA the 22-19 lead. On Japan’s next offensive possession, Neild would steal the ball then find a streaking Beldon on the fast break who in turn, dished to a slashing Sumita Schmidjorg (Austin, TX) who sank her layup while drawing the foul. Schmidjorg would go on to sink her and-1 free throw to make the score 25 – 19 in favor of the USA.
With a six-point lead, the USA would not rest on their laurels, playing intense defense and executing on the offensive end. After getting yet another stop on defense, Rajena Guettler (Frederick, MD) made a nice pass inside to Perry, who used a nice drop-step dribble to get around her defender and score. Then on their next possession, Neild grabbed a nice offensive rebound and put the ball back up to make give the USA a ten-point cushion with a 29 – 19 score and a bit over seven minutes remaining in the half.
The USA defense would not allow Japan to score again until the 5:52 mark, when the quick-footed Ayane sped past the USA defense for a fast break layup to make the score 29 – 21. These type of scoring runs would persist throughout the rest of the half as the USA offense made it a focal point to keep feeding Perry inside the post. Perry would finish the first half with a total of 20 points on a red-hot 10-for-12 shooting to go along with 9 rebounds. When the defense for Japan collapsed on Perry inside the paint, Beldon and Neild were waiting on the perimeter to make use of their deadly three-point shooting abilities. By the end of the first half, the USA defense had tightened their clamps on the Japan offense, limiting Japan to just 29 percent from the field. The USA would go into halftime leading over Japan by fifteen, 45 – 30.
The third quarter opened with the USA’s Lauren Chadwick (Gardiner, ME) grabbing an offensive rebound and then scoring a quick put-back bucket to extend their lead even further. Japan would prove to hang tough, however, catching up to within a ten-point window of opportunity until Neild and Schmidjorg promptly shut it closed with three consecutive three-pointers that made the score 58 – 39 with under six minutes remaining to play in the third quarter. Schmidjorg would go on to provide key outside shooting in the third quarter and was a spark off the bench when the USA offense needed it most. She was a perfect 3-for-3 from the charity stripe and was 50 percent on 2-for-4 shooting from three-point land. She hit her second three-pointer when there was just over four minutes to play that made the score 63 – 41 in favor of USA.
Despite being down by as much as 24 points in the third quarter, Japan refused to quit. They were able to catch a bit of momentum, closing the final minutes of the quarter out on a 8-to-2 run. By the end of the third quarter, the USA was ahead by sixteen, with a 65 – 49 lead over Japan.
The final ten minutes was a close one as Japan and USA tied for scoring in the quarter with 14 points scored by each team. The USA shot 31 percent from the field on 5-for-16 shooting, were unable to hit any of their attempted three-pointers and sank 4 of their 8 free throw attempts. Japan shot 26 percent from the field on 6-for-23 shooting, sank 2 of their attempted 14 three-pointers (that’s not a typo – Japan attempted three-pointers at a pace akin to the state of modern day basketball with 37 attempts from long range), and was unable to hit their only free throw attempt for the quarter.
In the end, the steady perimeter play of guards Beldon (15 points, 9 assists, 1 steal) and Schmidjorg (11 points, 2 assists, 1 steal) along with the double-doubles by USA’s Perry (28 points, 13 rebounds) and Neild (15 points, 13 rebounds) proved to be too much for Japan to overcome. While Japan played suffocating defense that caused the USA to turn the ball over sixteen times and were carried by the double-double of Numaguchi Saya (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Maruyama Kaori’s team high of 28 points, the deeply talented USA team was able to keep them at bay. At the end of regulation, the final score was 79 – 63.
Game Notes / Awards: Two USA players earned accolades for their performances this week. Cassidy Perry was named Most Valuable Player of the Women’s 2018 U21 World Deaf Basketball Championships. Hannah Neild was named to the Best Five team for the Women’s 2018 U21 World Deaf Basketball Championships (the five strongest overall performers in the tournament were selected for this award).
Game Note / Key Stat Leaders:
USA: Beldon (15 pts, 5-8 FG, 1-2 3pt FG, 3 Reb, 9 Ast, 2 TO, 1 Stl), Chadwick (8 pts, 4-12 FG, 0-6 3pt FG, 5 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 TO, 2 Stl), Perry (28 pts, 14-20 FG, 13 Reb, 3 TO), Neild (15 pts, 5-13 FG, 3-7 3pt FG, 13 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 TO, 2 Blk, 3 Stl), Schmidjorg (11pts, 3-8 FG, 2-4 3pt FG, 5 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 TO, 1 Stl)
JPN: Ayane (13 pts, 6-11 FG, 1-3 3pt FG, 9 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 TO), Kaori (20 pts, 6-22 FG, 3-12 3pt FG, 7 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 TO, 3 Stl), Saya (16 pts, 6-21 FG, 1-10 3pt FG, 10 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 TO, 1 Blk, 2 Stl)
Game Notes / Coaches: Oga Reiko is the head coach for Japan and is Nakano Eri the assistant coach. Lindsay Stergio is the head coach for USA and the assistant coaches are Victorica Monroe and Laura Edwards.
Credit: Stephen Farias