LUBLIN, POLAND—The Men’s Deaf National Basketball Team capped off an impressive run at the World Championships with the Men’s team win the program’s first-ever gold against defending World Champions Lithuania by a score of 105-77.
The United States came out of the gates blazing early at the GLOBUS Sports Hall, and after trading a few buckets with the Lithuanians, the Americans wasted little time putting distance between the two teams. Led by Noah Valencia’s 14 first-quarter points (including nine points from downtown), the stars and stripes proved their superior speed and ball movement en route to a 31-20 lead after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Lithuanian squad appeared to slow down the pace of the game, outsourcing the United States during the frame 24-22, to take a nine-point deficit into the half. However, Lithuanian dreams of a comeback were quickly quashed in the second half when the Americans pushed the pace again, relying on their speed and quickness as well as the physicality inside the paint of big men Michael Lizarraga (21 points, 7 rebounds), Andy Cruz (18 points, 5 rebounds) to put the game out of reach. Steve Valencia-Biskupiak dominated the glass for the Americans, corralling twelve rebounds to go along with ten points and three blocks for a respectable double-double.
Guard Ben Coleman added 14 points on 3-for-5 shooting beyond the arc, and Noah Valencia led all scorers with 33 points on 10-for-25 shooting including five three-pointers and added eight rebounds, five assists, and four steals. The Americans had five players scoring in double figures.
The 105-77 victory represents USA’s best finish at the World Deaf Championships. The team previously finished with a silver medal in 2002 and 2015, a bronze in 2007, and missed a medal in 2011. Lithuania’s streak of winning three consecutive World Championships (2007, 2011, 2015) came to an end.
Noah Valencia was awarded with the tournament’s Most Valuable Player honors and Lizarraga was selected to the Best Five all-tournament team.
Asked about what set the team apart from the rest of the 15-team field, Lizarraga responded, “Gold was our main goal, but we focused on working on each step to getting it. Our practices and training brought us together and helped us get to know each other and create a real team. So by the time the tournament started, we were ready. We kept reminding each other what we were there for, to get the gold”
Reflecting on the tournament, USA Deaf Basketball International director Jeremias Valencia, who also suited up for Team USA, remarked, “I want to thank everyone for their dedication to the United States of America and bringing us medals. The most important thing to me and what counts the most is that everyone represented our country very well by being class acts.”
Lizarraga added, “I’d just like to add a huge thank you for all the love and support from each of our fans throughout the whole process. Winning this tournament means a lot to me, and I am grateful for each of you who took the time to watch the games and send us your shoutouts and support from so many different places.”
USA 93, Japan 41
USA 69, Greece 53
USA 105, Spain 55
USA 91, Russia 76
Gold Medal Game
USA 105, Lithuania 77