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Gliders, Rollers begin World Challenge in style
With the London Paralympics firmly in their sights, the Australian men’s and women’s teams both posted impressive victories to open the 2012 Wheelchair Basketball World Challenge in Sydney.
The Australian women’s team, the Gliders, were dominant from the outset in their 67-41 victory over Japan, before their male counterparts overcame Great Britain in a very torrid clash at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre.
The Rollers prevailed 60-37, but not before some bruising exchanges with a Great Britain outfit clearly out to rattle the reigning Paralympic and World Champions.
Australian Rollers head coach Ben Ettridge always knew the match would be physical, and was proud of the way his men faced the challenge.
“Our level of team work was outstanding and our understanding of each other and the game was very high,” Ettridge said.
“You never want to say you are happy as a coach, but I’m pleased with the level we are at right now.
“Great Britain is a sleeping giant and we know they are going to lift as the home team in London. They’re always going to push hard and they’re always going to fight. But our guys did the job tonight, it was a really good performance.
Tristan Knowles (18 points) Justin Eveson (14 points) and Brett Stibners (13 points) led the way offensively in front of their home crowd, while Great Britain’s Ade Oregembe (9 points) Terry Bywater (8 points) and firebrand point guard Jon Pollack (4 points) caused the most headaches for the Australians.
Earlier in the day, it was a West Australian on the verge of her first Paralympics who shone brightest for the Gliders, in what was a high quality performance at both ends of the court.
Amber Merritt compiled 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds and two steals to show she will certainly be one to watch when the Paralympic Games open in just 42 days time.
Experienced campaigners Cobi Crispin (17 points), Bridie Kean (9 points) and Clare Nott (8 points) were also strong as the Gliders led at every change while taking the chance to rotate their bench.
With each member of the squad earning valuable minutes, the Australians will enter tomorrow’s clash against Germany well rested, well prepared and ready to test their rivals who are strongly touted as real threat to the Gliders’ gold medal aspirations in London. Tip-off is at 5:30pm
Meanwhile, the Rollers face a quick turnaround and will play Japan tomorrow morning at 10am.
Tickets are available at the door of the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre.
Upcoming World Challenge Fixtures
Thursday July 19
10:00am – Australian Rollers v Japan
12:00pm – China v Japan (Women)
5:30pm – Australian Gliders v Germany
7:30pm – Australian Rollers v Great Britain
Friday July 20
10:00am – Australian Gliders v China
12:00pm – Great Britain v Japan (Men)
5:30pm – Japan v Germany (Women)
7:30pm – Australian Rollers v Japan
Saturday July 21
12:30pm – 3rd v 4th (Women)
2:30pm – Women’s Final
4:30pm – Men’s Final
By Tim Mannion