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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. Two years ago, the Army won the wheelchair basketball gold medal, defeating the Marine Corps, 44-19, at the 2011 Warrior Games. Last year, Army once again conquered Marines, 54-34. The Army did it once again during the 2013 games.
During the May 15 gold-medal game, Army posted yet another win against the 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, Im not gonna lie, said Army veteran Anthony Pone, of Fort Worth, Texas. But I wasnt unsure about the victory.
This was Pones 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 Pones 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 night, the Marines won the bronze-medal game against Navy, 49-18, which advanced them to the gold medal game. Navy ended the 2013 Warrior Games with a 2-2 record and a bronze medal.
Though the Armys strong offense kept the Marines from ultimately winning, 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 Anthony McDaniel of Chula Vista, Calif. We did good. We never gave up, so it felt like a win. Im 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 teams 32 goals. The 10-member team displayed plenty of versatility overall, with six of the players scoring points. Cpl. Josue Barron of San Diego, 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 night in a row, claiming 12 of Armys 34 points. Four of his points came from free throws. Veteran Blake McMinn of 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 Armys strong team bond.
Besides all the rigorous training that we do year-round, its definitely the family cohesion, Pone said. We hang out together; if theres a problem, we all talk about it together. Weve got that family cohesion. Its tight; keeps us focused.