A strong second half from the Rollers has seen them advance to the 2018 Wheelchair Basketball World Championship semi-final, progressing past Poland 83-70.
Poland were the first to hit the scoreboard in the quarter-final while it took the Rollers two and a half minutes to find the bottom of the net.
The Rollers brought in their big man line-up, playing three 4.0’s and two 1.0s to combat the aggressive defence that had Poland keep the Rollers out of the paint and force lower percentage outside shots.
Jannik Blair would make the most of the added attention to the extra high pointer and nail an open shot from the free-throw line.
A timeout from Poland gave Australian Coach Craig Friday a chance to address some defensive breakdowns, highlighting Poland’s Dominik Mosler as an offensive threat having accumulated six points in the quarter.
Bill Latham was able to hit the Rollers’ first long-range shot of the game just before quarter-time to bring the Polish lead back to only one point and help swing the momentum back into Australia’s favour.
Poland started the second quarter strongly, scoring the first six points before Latham was able to add to the scoreboard for the Rollers.
Coach Friday looked to the speed of his mid-pointers to make more of an impact in the game, asking his team to wear down the Polish high-pointers and make them more accountable on defence.
The three-point shot began to work for the Rollers with Shaun Norris cutting the Poland lead in half after making one of his own.
Despite trading shots with Poland, the Rollers were able to bring the game back to a one-point game through another close-range bucket from Latham, before captain Norris was able to find his range and give the Rollers their first lead of the game.
Heading into half-time the Rollers were able to regain their short-lived lead thanks to a three on the buzzer from Brett Stibners, his second for the game.
Kim Robins hit the scoreboard six seconds into the third quarter for his first points, before the Rollers worked into a full court press to apply some defensive pressure on Poland.
It didn’t take long for the press to affect the Polish offence, with the Rollers forcing an eight-second half-court violation as they began to wear down their opposition.
Tom O’Neill-Thorne kick-started the Rollers offence in the third, scoring thirteen points in a row including a three to extend Australia’s lead into double-digits.
The Rollers’ defence would not let up as they continued with their press to force another back-court violation and then forced a shot-clock on another possession shortly after.
Closing out the third Tristan Knowles had the final shot where he was fouled outside the arc and gladly knocked down all three of his free throws to lead by thirteen at the final break.
Defensive pressure was the name of the game for the Rollers with the Australians beginning the final quarter by forcing another shot-clock violation.
Latham once again became the target for the Rollers as he was able to work his way into the paint for the first eight points of the quarter.
An unsportsmanlike foul against Poland saw Knowles hit both free throws and regain possession where he was fouled again, as the game drew to a close with a 10-point lead in the Rollers’ grasp.
The Rollers were able to find their offensive groove in the second half and come away with a strong victory over Poland. Five Australian players were able to reach double-digit scoring with Latham (18 points, nine assists), O’Neill-Thorne (22 points, three rebounds), Brett Stibners (10 points) and Tristan Knowles (12 points, five assists) all having an impact on the scoreboard.
Captain Norris was able to finish with a double-double accumulating 15 points along with 11 rebounds as he was able to lead his team to the next stage of the World Championships.
The Rollers will have a day’s break before they face the United States in the semi-final who finished top of Pool B and are undefeated in the tournament after defeating Argentina by 41 points in their quarter-final.
The Australian Rollers Schedule for the 2018 IWBF World Championships (all times AEST):
August 17: Rollers vs. Argentina (W 74-55)
August 18: Rollers vs. Spain (W 66-56)
August 20: Rollers vs. Netherlands (L 53-58)
August 21: Rollers cross-over game vs. Brazil (W 73-54)
August 23: Rollers vs. Poland in quarter-final (W 83-70)
August 24: Rollers vs. USA in semi-final
August 26: Medal games
By Basketball Australia