LONDON (Paralympics) – In a tournament where anything can happen, there are still going to be favorites and two of the tipped contenders for the women’s podium here – Canada and Australia – met in pool play with the North American side coming out on top 57-50. Down by one with 1:29 to play, the final margin came with the Gliders taking chances that left open shots or created free-throws.
Canada’s Janet McLachlan was the player of the game, dominating with her size and all-around skill. She won the tip and then just about everything else; her stats were a gaudy 28 points on 10 of 17 shooting from the field and 8 of 10 from the line, 21 rebounds, 2 blocked shots and a steal. During timeouts – she played all 40 minutes - she served chips and cider to the crowd and provided a bit of TV commentary.
McLachlan didn’t do it all by herself. Cindy Ouellet tossed in 10 points with 9 assists while Katie Harnock added 14 points and 6 rebounds.
For all their work though, they could not separate themselves from the land down under. Perhaps that’s because without McLachlan and Harnock, Canada’s other shooters were a combined 7 of 31. Ahead by eight after one quarter, the lead was just one at the half. Canada pushed to a seven point lead early in the fourth only to see it cut to one twice. Australia just couldn’t get the lead though.
Amber Merritt, a Portsmouth, England native whose family moved to Australia when she was 10, led her team with 16 points and 6 rebounds. Cobi Crispin had 12 points and 15 boards.
Both these teams will move on. If they meet again, it will probably be for a medal; color to be determined.
Here is what happened in Saturday's other games.
After three games, only Australia in Group A and Canada and Germany in Group B have the maximum six points. Three Group A teams – USA, Spain and Turkey – stand on five points each with Italy and South Africa the minimum of three. In Group B, Poland have five points, Great Britain have 4, and both Japan and Colombia have three with two games to play.
Turkey 65 Italy 60
Turkey continued its successful play with a hard-fought win over Italy, moving to 2-1 in pool play and a likely shot to move on in their first Paralympics. Ozgur Gurbulak led his team as usual, notching a triple-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. Cem Gezinci added 13 with 10 rebounds and Ismail Ar scored 10 for the Turks. Matteo Cavagnini had game-highs of 25 points and 15 rebounds for Italy, followed by Amine Moukhariq’s 17 points and 13 from Galliano Marchionni.
Germany 64 Japan 49
Germany improved to 3-0 thanks to a 26-11 fourth quarter run that saw them fend off a pesky Japan which led the first quarter and drew even after three. Neither team shot well – 38% for Germany, 33% for Japan – but the bigger German side controlled the boards 54-37, including 17 offensive rebounds leading to second chance shots. Dirk Koehler led Germany with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Looking ahead to their clash with Canada, Sebastian Wolk said: “If we play like we did today, it will not be enough. We have to improve our field goal success rate by 20%.”
USA 91 South Africa 29
The Americans took care of business against the new kids on the block from South Africa with another good shooting performance (58%) and 10 of 12 players getting on the scoresheet. Matt Scott led the attack this time with 21 points with Josh Turek adding 19 and Jason Nelms 13. The passing game was working as well as 10 players shared 28 assists for the USA. They also out-rebounded the RSA 49-29.
Australia 75 Spain 59
Outscoring Spain 24-12 in the second quarter, Australia’s men built a 17-point halftime lead on a torrid 67% shooting spree. That made up for letting Spain score 12 straight to tie the score at 20. Spain cut the deficit down to 10 after three but the Aussies pushed it back to 16 for the final margin. Shaun Norris scored 25 to lead the green and gold with Justin Eveson adding 17 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Asier Garcia Pereiro led Spain with 23.
Great Britain 81 Colombia 41
Great Britain finally gave the home fans something to feel good about with a pasting of a Colombia still coming to terms with playing top flight international ball. Terry Bywater led Team GB with 21 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds. Dan Highcock added 15 points and 8 boards; Simon Munn and Jon Hall scored 10 each. The aptly named Nelson Sanz Londono led Colombia with 14.
Canada 83 Poland 65
Canada, silver medalists in Beijing, held form after spotting Poland a first quarter lead. By halftime they were ahead by four and 10 after three before pushing to the 18-point margin. Patrick Anderson paced Canada again with 34 points on 75% shooting, passed for 10 assists and just missed a second consecutive triple-double with 9 rebounds. Richard Peter added 12 points. Mateuz Filipskia led Poland with 20 while Piotr Luszynski had 10.
With an unequal amount of games played amongst the women’s teams – some have played three, others two - it’s pointless to talk points at this point. In Group A, the Dutch are 2-0 and the only team with full points while in Group B, both Germany and China have yet to lose after two matches.
Great Britain 42 Brazil 37
The home team finally put one in the win column, coming from behind for a close victory over a feisty Brazil. Trailing by four after three quarters, the Brits outscored the South Americans 15-6 in the last period for the victory. Amy Conroy led Team GB with 18 points and 8 rebounds.
“We were pretty down after the loss (to Australia) but we showed up today,” Conroy said.
Debora Cristina Guimares da Costa scored just over half as many points as letters in her name with 16 for Brazil.
“It’s a win we had to get, there’s no doubt about that,” said Team GB coach Garry Peel. “Otherwise, we’d be going into the Canada game needing a win and that’s not a position we want to be in.”
USA 67 Mexico 33
Becca Murray’s 22 points and 6 assists paced the Americans to a 34-point win over their southern neighbors. Rose Hollerman added 18. The USA started the game with a 22-9 first quarter run and built the lead from there.
Germany 76 France 32
The French took another one on the chin, this time from Germany who look good to top the group after their first game win against the USA. France had their best quarter early with 14 points and saw a six point spread balloon from there. Marina Mohnen scored 23, Gesche Schuenemann 15, and Anika Zeyen 12 for the winners.