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Rollers, Gliders are Asia Oceania Champions
The Australian men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams are the 2011 Asia Oceania champions, after winning their respective gold medal matches tonight in Goyang, South Korea.
The Australian Gliders won the women’s gold medal by defeating China 45-44, before the Rollers thumped Japan 69-48 in the men’s final to emerge undefeated at the championships.
Victory proved to be the icing on the cake, accomplishing the two goals both national teams set at the beginning of the championships – a gold medal and London 2012 Paralympic Games qualification.
By progressing to the gold medal finals tonight, the Rollers and Gliders both booked their passage to the London Paralympics beginning on August 29 next year.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing, particularly for the Gliders.
They lost twice to Japan during the qualifying rounds but earned a finals spot on points percentage, and even in the gold medal match against a Chinese team they had beaten twice earlier this week, found themselves down 14-7 at quarter-time and down 40-38 late in the fourth quarter.
They managed to fight back though, in a performance Australian head coach John Triscari believes will now hold his team in great stead for their London 2012 campaign.
“I’m ecstatic. I’m very happy that we have qualified for London and achieved top spot here after a difficult week. This team has come a long way,” Triscari said.
“I thought the girls were tough today. It was a real battle, the low scoreline tells the story.
“We always work on keeping our opposition to under 50 points because 90 per cent of the time, our offence is strong enough to win us the game. And that proved to be the case today.”
Cobi Crispin was again the leading light for the Gliders on her way to 18 points, while Sarah Stewart (11 points) and Amber Merritt (10 points) supported Crispin superbly offensively.
“The job is done and the Gliders can go home happy,” Gliders captain Bridie Kean said.
“This week we have learnt to expect anything. That’s the biggest thing we’re taking out of this tournament other than our qualification for London. We can’t relax and I think the pressure situations we have experienced this week have allowed us to grow as a team together.”
Meanwhile, the Rollers continued their absolute dominance of this tournament right to the final siren, sending a message to their 2012 rivals that they are most certainly the team to beat.
The reigning Paralympic and World Champions rarely moved out of first gear all week, and were simply ruthless in the final at both ends of the court. Japan found no real room to work with, and just had no answers.
Australian Rollers head coach Ben Ettridge was a content man at full-time.
“Coaches are never happy, but I’m pretty happy. Proud is the way I would describe how I’m feeling at the moment. These boys are a joy to coach,” Ettridge said.
“Our process has just been strictly business. We know that at a tournament like this, if we don’t turn up and play 40 minutes of basketball, we’re in a dogfight.
“It hasn’t been an easy week but I think the boys have hung tough and stuck to the processes.
“This team is a very close knit. We had to leave a couple of guys behind who could easily slot into our line-up, but the 12 guys who are here got the job done.”
Tristan Knowles (23 points), Shaun Norris (18 points) and Brad Ness (10 points) led the scoring while 11 of the 12 Rollers grabbed at least one rebound which truly exemplified their desire to win and their hunger for the ball.
Australian Rollers powerhouse Brad Ness, on the verge of his fourth Paralympics, said Australian fans can now expect big things to come.
“Full credit to the Australian Paralympic Committee and Basketball Australia in the sense that they have realised that we are on top, but we need help to go further,” Ness said
“There are stringent routines in place now and the guys are doing a lot more work off court because they realise what used to be enough, isn’t anywhere near enough now.
“The challenge for us now is to maintain this level and see if we can raise the bar higher because we know when we get the London, the standard is going to be extremely high.
“The boys have been hard at it for the last six months and it’s only going to ramp up from here. In all the campaigns I have been involved in, this is the best preparation we have ever had and I think we are capable of something special next year.”
Host nation Korea defeated Japan for the bronze medal in the men’s division earlier today, while Japan beat Korea in the women’s bronze medal match.
2011 Asia Oceania Wheelchair Basketball Championships – Goyang, South Korea
Australian schedule (AEDST)
Fri Nov 4
GLIDERS 68 – China 49
Sat Nov 5
Japan 59 – GLIDERS 56
ROLLERS 88 - Chinese Taipei 37
ROLLERS 104 - New Zealand 27
Sun Nov 6
ROLLERS 79 – Iraq 29
GLIDERS 119 - Korea 9
Mon Nov 7
GLIDERS 59 – China 42
ROLLERS 65 – Korea 49
Tue Nov 8
Japan 52 – GLIDERS 49
ROLLERS 77 – Japan 58
Wed Nov 9
GLIDERS 84 - Korea 11
Thu Nov 10 – Gold medal finals
GLIDERS 45 – China 44
ROLLERS 69 - JAPAN 48
FINAL STANDINGS (men)
FINAL STANDINGS (women)
By Tim Mannion