LONDON (Paralympics) – Two teams with big aspirations got harsh reality checks on the first day of Paralympic competition, one being the home team who lost to Germany in overtime 77-72 in front of 5,342 at the North Greenwich Arena.
The Germans jumped ahead quickly, ahead by seven at the half behind the strong play of Dirk Passiwan, Sebastian Wolk, and Andre Bienek. But the Brits stormed back with a dominant third quarter to go ahead by three.
Knotted at 66 at the end of regulation, Germany found its strength again in overtime to disappoint the home team and the home crowd. Passiwan led all scorers with 26 while Simon Munn had 21 for Great Britain. Terry Bywater added 19 points and 9 assists.
While that was one of the last matches of the day, the first upset came early as Turkey, in its first Paralympics ever, ran roughshod over a USA team that was the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.
It was a humbling opener for the Americans who are steadfast in their resolve to make a podium finish this year. And regardless of how they progress from the 59-50 defeat, it will probably be worse for the Yank’s Matt Scott who plays professionally for Turkish side Galatasaray. Many of his teammates were on the other side.
With the USA shooting a dismal 30%, the basketball mad Turks made them pay on the boards as well with a 45-37 advantage that limited second chances. Size matters.
There was nothing gaudy about the win. The team in red just seemed to work harder and their confidence grew with every made basket. When they missed, they didn’t get rattled.
Cem Gezinci had a double-double with 15 points and 17 rebounds, while Ozgur Gurbulak fell one point shy of doing the same with nine points and 10 boards.
Turkey led by six at the half but trailed by three with one quarter to play. They outscored the USA 17-5 in the fourth for the historic win.
“We were surprised,” said Joe Chambers who led the Americans with 17 points. “We were expecting to beat everybody. But it’s just one of those things, all part of the games.”
Perhaps the Americans should have checked the calendar. It was already a holiday back home, fittingly one called Victory Day, celebrating the final battle of the war of independence in 1922.
It will now also commemorate the country’s first battle in the Paralympic Games.
Coach Mehmut Onut didn’t revel for long.
“The next match is more important than today’s match. We are going to go into the match just having beaten the USA and they will go into the match knowing that," he said.
In the rest of men’s play, Canada did what Canada does in handling Japan with ease, building a 22-point lead after three quarters that ended in a 68-53 win. Patrick Anderson scored 32 points on 71% shooting and pulled down 13 rebounds in the effort.
Spain bested Italy 67-40 with five players in double figures, topped by Roberto Mena Perez’s 18. Poland defeated Colombia 63-45.
Australia introduced South Africa to big time basketball with a 93-39 initiation with six players scoring in double figures led by Justin Eveson’s 21 and Shaun Norris’s 17.
On the women’s side, the USA had no problem opening defense of their Athens and Beijing gold medals with a 63-24 trouncing of France, coincidentally the same country faced by the Americans in the Olympic Final. Becca Murray led the way with 23 points, all but two in the first half.
A potential rival to the Americans, Australia had a tougher go against a surprising Brazil, fighting off a late surge to protect a 52-50 victory.
It was an 0-2 day for Great Britain as the women’s side dropped a 62-35 decision to the Netherlands, now coached by former men’s team star Gert Jan Van der Linden.
China came back to beat Mexico 53-46 in the evening finale.