Two years ago, the U.S Army ran away with the wheelchair basketball gold medal, defeating the Marine Corps, 44-19, at the 2011 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte.
Last year, the Army once again conquered the Marine Corps, 54-34, at the 2012 Warrior Games.
In this year’s gold medal game held during the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo., the Army posted yet another win against Marines – but this time, it was anything but a sure thing.
Army pulled out the win in the final minute of the game, ending the night with a score of 34-32.
"I had no idea this game was going to be that close, I’m not gonna lie," said Army veteran Anthony Pone, from Fort Worth, Texas.
Adding, "But I wasn’t unsure about the victory."
This was Pone’s third Warrior Games and third wheelchair basketball gold medal, although he noted it "feels like the first time I won a gold medal."
This was also Pone’s hardest fought Warrior Games victory.
The game proved to be a nail-biter, with constant turnover and a tug-of-war for the leading score throughout the night.
In fact, the Marines led after the first half, 18-16.
Earlier in the competition, the Marines won the bronze medal game against Navy, 49-18, which advanced them to the gold medal final.
Navy ended the 2013 Warrior Games with a 2-2 record and a bronze medal.
Though the Army’s strong offense kept Marines from ultimately grabbing claiming victory, the close battle still felt like a victory for the Marines.
"We had a lot of energy and a lot of heart," said Marine Corps Sgt. Anthony McDaniel, from Chula Vista, Calif.
"We did good. We never gave up, so it felt like a win. I’m proud of what we accomplished tonight."
McDaniel, a two-time Warrior Games participant, proved to be a valuable asset to the Marines, scoring 10 of the team’s 32 points.
The 10-member team displayed plenty of versatility overall, with six of the players scoring points.
Cpl. Josue Barron, from San Diego, Calif., was right behind McDaniel, with nine points, including the only three-pointer scored in the game.
For the Army, Pone was the leading scorer for the second game in a row, claiming 12 of Army’s 34 points.
Four of his points came from free throws.
Veteran Blake McMinn, from Arlington, Texas, was a close second to Pone, scoring 11 points. Five Army players scored during the game.
Pone attributes his three Warrior Games gold medals to Army’s strong team bond.
"Besides all the rigorous training that we do year-round, it’s definitely the family cohesion," Pone said.
Adding, "We hang out together; if there’s a problem, we all talk about it together. We’ve got that family cohesion. It’s tight; keeps us focused."
(Army News Service)