There was an emphatic opening day victory for British Wheelchair Basketball’s (GB) Men (1-0) over Algeria, but the Women (0-1) just missed out after a hard-fought loss to reigning World Champions Canada in their first contest, at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.
It was the Women who got proceedings underway, squaring off against Canada. From the first tip it was clear both sides understood each other’s games, inside and out. A cagey opening 10 minutes saw both teams struggle to put the ball through the basket, Canada and GB displaying a defensive intensity that would characterise the contest. The score line at the end of the first quarter read 14-12, in Canada’s favour. The back and forth nature of the contest continued in the second period, as Canada fought to keep their nose in front. Only 1 point separated the teams (24-25) at half time. It proved to be more of the same after the break, GB unwilling to let Canada pull out of reach. Heading into the final 10 minutes, GB trailed by just a single basket (32-35). Nerves tightened down the stretch, as both sides once again struggled to find the basket. It was Canada, however, who managed to make timely shots as GB lost confidence. The Canadians established a big enough cushion to see out the final few minutes and earn a 43-36 win. Helen Freeman and Amy Conroy top scored for GB with 14 points each.
The loss is in no way devastating for GB but the team will now face a more difficult route to the medal stages, should they progress from the group.
GB’s men suffered no such problems as they breezed past Algeria in stunning fashion, claiming a 93-31 victory to set a strong tone moving forward. The team’s strength in depth was on full display as all 12 players received court time and 10 found their way onto the score sheet. While stars Terry Bywater (14 points) and Ian Sagar (19 points) impressed, it was the young guns who stole the plaudits – Greg Warburton added 14 points and 6 steals and Phil Pratt contributed 12 points.
Image: The Paralympic Games