At the AOZ qualifying tournament, the Australian Rollers have advanced to the Semi-Final after defeating Thailand while the Gliders have set up a final clash against China with a spot in the 2016 Paralympics on the line.

The Rollers used a 26-6 second quarter to overcome a plucky and determined Thailand side, winning 77-54.

10 points in the first term from Tristan Knowles (22 points) gave Australia a slim two-point lead at the first change but an increase in their defensive pressure was able to silence the hot shooting from Thailand in the decisive second quarter.

Shaun Norris, Bill Latham, Matt McShane and Jannik Blair were the catalysts at the defensive end, forcing the opposition into several long-range and contested shots.

Thailand refused to yield in the second half, fighting hard until the final siren but Shawn Russell (11 points), Brett Stibners (10 points) and Latham (16 points and five assists) combined to keep them at bay and carry Australia to victory.

In a busy day of basketball for the Gliders, a loss to China in the morning was quickly forgotten as they bounced back to defeat Japan. That win sets up a third and final clash against China with the winner advancing to Rio in 2016.

Focusing on shutting down Amber Merritt, China took the early ascendancy in Australia’s first match of the day but Cobi Crispin (13 points, eight rebounds), Leanne Del Toso (10 points) and Clare Nott (10 points) stepped up to give the Gliders a two-point lead at quarter-time.

China were able to respond in the second term, halting Australia at the half-court and turning around the deficit to lead by ten at the main break.

The Gliders changed up the tempo in the second half, pushing the ball up the floor and countering with full-court pressure but the margin proved too big to overcome as they fell 47-58.

With a spot against China now on the line in the final pool group game, Australia were intent on putting away the Japanese as quickly as possible but their opposition was ready for the fight, staying within two points at half-time.

The game was turned on its head in the third quarter though thanks to Merritt, whose 26 points was double any other player. She was helped by some pinpoint passing from Nott and Shelley Chaplin while Bridie Kean showcased her hard-nosed defence to help keep Japan to a number of low-percentage shots in a 26-8 period.

Kylie Gauci (10 points) then put the finishing touches on the game as Australia took the 69-49 win.

The Gliders will now play China at 8pm AEDT Friday night in a winner-takes-all clash. The Rollers will take on Japan in the Semi-Final at 4pm AEDT where a victory will also see them qualify for Rio as the top three countries advance in the men’s side of the tournament.

By Basketball Australia

Posted: 16/10/2015