LONDON (Paralympics) – Now it’s time to get serious. If you thought the Australia-USA first round match was Rugby League with a basket, wait for what happens if they meet in a Semi-Final.
With the last games of first round pool play finished up it is now time to separate the tourists from the contenders. With some surprising play and a few upsets though, the path to the podium is anything but assured.
Only two teams escaped the round robin unscathed; Australia in Group A and Canada in Group B. The closest game for either of them, a seven point margin for the Aussies against Turkey and for Canada against Germany. In a logjam of 3-2 teams in Group B, Spain is the surprise #2 in spite of their loss to the USA Monday night. The Americans rank third and Turkey fourth with Italy and South Africa on the outside looking in.
It is much more clear cut in Group B with one loss Germany behind the Canadians, followed by a resurgent Great Britain, and Poland. Japan and Colombia will play in the placement games.
For the Americans, the third slot means they have to navigate a German side which is playing consistently well right now, something the USA has not. When they’re shooting good as they were against Spain in a solid 63-55 win, they are very good. When not…
The prize for beating Germany would be the rematch with Australia, who should take a Poland which has two very strong players in Mateuz Filipski and Piotr Luszynski but not much depth after that.
On the other side, Canada is riding on the broad shoulders of Patrick Anderson who retired from international play after Beijing. Whoever talked him back should be a national hero of the second level because Anderson certainly been one of the first degree.
Arguably, the best player in the game, the agile Anderson has two triple doubles already and missed another by one rebound. He leads all scoring with a 26.6 average and is second in rebounding behind Colombia’s Rodney Hawkins 12.2 at an even 11 per game. He’s tied with Turkey’s Ozgur Gurbulak for the assist lead at 7.8 a game. To call him the LeBron James of wheelchair basketball would not be overstatement.
The women play their quarterfinals on Tuesday. The drama played out to the end here as the two time defending gold medalists USA had to claw back from a 21 point deficit to beat China in overtime 68-65. Becca Murray scored 30 for the Americans.
“We’ve struggled this summer coming back from large deficits and I think we really proved something not only to ourselves but to future opponents as well,” said Desiree Miller, who added 18 points and 12 rebounds for the USA. “We can fight back.”
Though compelling, the win really didn’t do the Americans any favors as they now have to face neighbors Canada and Janet McLachlan in the Quarter-Final. Like Anderson, she has been a force of nature, scoring at a 26.3 clip, second in the tournament, and leading in rebounds with a vacuum like 18.5 a game.
The victor will play Group A winner Australia who easily handled Mexico 62-37 in the first Quarter-Final.
China, on the other hand will face the Netherlands who have upped their game considerably since Gert Jan van der Linden took over as coach. The winner of this game will face the winner between Germany and Great Britain. Only Germany went unbeaten in pool play at 4-0, which included six point wins over the USA and China.
Here are the final group scores from Monday
Canada 68 Colombia 42
Australia 68 Italy 48
Great Britain 71 Japan 55
Turkey 79 South Africa 54
Germany 73 Poland 63
USA 63 Spain 55
Germany 68 Mexico 28
USA 68 China 65 OT
Canada 67 Great Britain 50
Netherlands 55 Brazil 42