LONDON (Paralympics) – It was not a pretty game but that didn’t matter a penny farthing to home crowd at the North Greenwich Arena when their Team GB women’s wheelchair basketball team took the court against heavy favorites German, the silver medalists from the last World Championships and Beijing.
The British side put forth a valiant effort but fell 55-44 to Germany who will next face the Netherlands while the USA meet Australia in the Semi-Final round.
If one just reads the headline and sees the 11-point difference, they might think it was a comfortable win for Germany. It was anything but.
More than halfway through the first quarter, the score was a tepid 6-4 for Germany primarily because Great Britain were shooting 20% in spite of good looks at the rim and the Germans were playing as if they had a 25-second clock, running it out at least three times. The low scoring was marked by German turnovers and British shooting did everything but go in the basket. It got better but not much as GB shooting hovered just north and south of 30% for the game.
“We always know if it’s Germany we can physically match them, and we did it again,” noted GB coach Garry Peel. “We stopped them and we stopped them. We just didn’t quite do it because we missed the shots, we just missed the shots.”
Germany staked a seven-point lead with 3:50 to play in the third but the Brits responded like Churchill himself was on the sideline, with Helen Turner capping an 8-0 run to give GB the lead 33-32 with 35 seconds to play in the third. From there, the two teams traded punch for punch with nine lead changes.
The GB defense did a magnificent job of neutralising Germany’s first two options on offense. With the twin towers of Marina Mohnen and Gesche Schuenemann ineffective, guard Annika Zeyen found the opportunities and worked hard to lead her team with 25 points and 9 rebounds.
“It’s really tough playing against the GB team,” said Schuenemann. “They are really strong with the chairs and have a great press. They jumped Marina and me a lot so Annika had a lot of space.”
The British effort took a toll at the end. For all their work, the basket was iron unkind for GB women with balls in and out or rolling off the rim. As it was early on, so was it at the end. With the Brits pressing, the lanes opened for Germany and the final margin was not in any way indicative of how close the game was and how resilient the GB women were against a superior team.
Chinese fortune ran out against the Netherlands who have upped their game considerably since Gert Jan van der Linden took over as coach. Mariska Beijer’s 29 points and 14 rebounds led her team to a 59-37 win. They will face still unbeaten Germany in Thursday's Semi-Finals.
With no seeming answer for the Canadian duo of Cindy Ouellet and Janet McLachlan, the USA fell behind Canada early. As that lead grew to as much as 12 points, it seemed possible that the Athens and Beijing champions might not medal at all, let alone grab a third consecutive gold which would match the Canadian achievement from 1992 to 2000. McLachlan had 15 points in the first half.
“She sliced and diced us and ate us up in the first half,” said USA coach David Kiley of McLachlan who had 15 in the first half. “She got in the middle; she got down court. They spent a lot of energy in that first half running and trying to break out pressure.”
After coming back from 21 down to China the night before, coach Kiley’s team knew that no mountain was too high for them to climb and they planted the flag for another gold medal shot with a strong 67-55 win.
They will now face Australia, who opened the Quarter-Finals by easily handling Mexico 62-37. Amber Merritt led all scorers with 14 points as Cobi Crispin added 12. Coach John Triscari used the ease of the game to rest his key players as much as possible for an American showdown with only two Gliders logging over 20 minutes in the match.
Brazil beat France in the 9/10 classification game 59-35 as Lia Maria Soares Martins outscored the French by ten herself with 45 points, setting the individual high mark for the tournament.