LONDON (Paralympics) – A day after their historic win over the USA, Paralympic debutantes Turkey pushed defending gold medalists Australia to the limit before falling 71-64.
There would be no swoon for the Turkish side after that heady win; they kept the game close against the champions. Down by two after one quarter and four at the half, the difference was never more than seven and they would continually fight back. Emotional as they tend to be, yes. But this time with a focus and maturity to their game that channels emotion for rather than against.
After finally drawing even at 57 on an Ozgur Gurbulak jumper, they withstood another Aussie surge and took the lead for the first, and only, time of the game at 62-61 on a Ferit Gumus shot in the paint. Tristan Knowles cancelled that with an outside shot and Australia pushed the lead back to seven. After Turkey closed to two at 66-64, Shaun Norris scored and Justin Eveson would close out the game for Australia with a basket and a free throw.
Eveson wasn’t surprised by Turkey’s play. He was one of the first foreign players to join the professional wheelchair basketball league there and saw the development.
“They are quality players; I just don’t think they run as deep as us and that showed tonight. When key players got in trouble and had to sit out whole quarters at a time – I did the same thing – we had no drop off and I think they did,” he said.
When he first got to Turkey, he described the game as aggressive but lacking in skill. No longer.
“In just five or six years they’ve come from being second division Euro qualifiers to being here in the big show,” Eveson added.
Gurbulak led the Turks with 20 but it was Gumus’s path to 17 that kept them in the game early. Australia showed their pedigree with a balanced attack paced by Eveson and Knowles with 17 each. Shaun Norris added 13 with eight assists while Brad Ness scored 12 and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Here is what happened in the day's other games.
USA 77 Italy 51
There was finally some redeem in the American team which made up for a horrible shooting performance in a loss to Turkey with a 57% effort against Italy in a comfortable win. The Italians kept pace early and kept it close at the half, trailing only by seven. The second half was all USA, especially a 20-8 fourth quarter that provided the final margin. It was all Jay Nelms for the Americans in the first half – at one point he had outscored Italy 18-14 – with 22 of his game-high 24 points coming before the break. In the second half it was Nate Hinze, 22 points, and Josh Turek 10 points. In all, 11 of the 12 Americans scored in the game.
Germany 59 Colombia 46
After jumping out to a 9-0 lead, the Germans held off Colombia and big man Rodney Hawkins (16 points, 19 rebounds) for a 13-point win. Sebastian Wolk scored 13 and Dirk Passiwan 12 with 8 rebounds and 8 assists for Germany. Nelson Sanz Londono added 15 with 10 rebounds.
Poland 78 Japan 53
Poland made quick work of Japan with a 25-point win. Mateuz Filipskia scored 21 with 10 assists and Piotr Luszynski 21 with 17 rebounds to pace the Poles. Reo Fujimoto scored 18 for Japan.
Spain 74 South Africa 50
Alejandro Zarzuela Beltran scored 24 and Ismael Garcia Moreno 22 to give Spain a comfortable win over South Africa.
Canada 70 Great Britain 54
High tea will taste a little better in Toronto than in London tomorrow after Canada gave Great Britain, bronze medalists in Beijing, another loss in pool play. Canada rolled out to a 20-7 lead but the Brits stopped the bleeding and chipped away to pull within one before trailing by five at the half. Patrick Anderson, who scored his team’s first 23 points against Japan the previous day, did most of the damage on both ends, with steals or by blocking shots, grabbing rebounds (10) and also scoring (19). He finished the game with a triple-double of 29 points, 14 boards and 10 assists. In the second half, Canada jumped out fast again, pushing the lead back to double figures and increasing it from there to a 23 point spread late in the fourth before a mild GB run cut it to the final margin.
Germany 54 USA 48
This rematch of the Beijing and 2010 World Championship Finals, and a good bet for the last game here, shared none of the excitement or drama of those previous great games. Both teams seemed flat and though close throughout, it lacked the passion and intensity of their medal games. It was the second game for the Americans and first for Germany in pool play so a loss by either side wouldn’t be devastating.
“We knew coming into the games we would have five hard matches,” said Becca Murray. "We must look at some things and fix them for the next one.”
Marina Mohnen made the difference for Germany, scoring 9 of her 15 points in the last two minutes.
“I think the States team is the best team in our group. We beat them so it is a great start to our tournament,” she said.
Australia 51 Great Britain 24
The Aussie women won every quarter in easily dispatching Great Britain by 27 points. A balanced score sheet saw 11 of 12 players with at least a basket for the Australians with only one player – Amber Merritt with 10 - in double figures.
Netherlands 70 Canada 59
The Dutch are working their way through the Commonwealth, taking Canada 71-59 the day after they beat the hosts. They jumped out early, withstood a second quarter run and closed out the former three-time Paralympic champions. Mariska Beijer led the Netherlands with 34 points on 13 of 19 from the field. Janet McLachlan paced Canada with 26.
China 41 France 14
China inverted the scoreline, 41-14, on France who will not replicate the spontaneous run of their Olympic counterparts to the final game. Cheng Haizhen led China with 12 points.