Australian Rollers defeat USA in Semi-Finals

Australia’s Wheelchair Basketball teams have been doing very well in the 2010 IWBF International Wheelchair Basketball Championships. The Rollers (men’s team) have just scored a great victory over Team USA in the semi-finals, 68-58. They now go into the Gold Medal game as favourites (see below for BA press release).

The Gliders (women’s team), also playing in Birmingham, fell to Germany in their semi-final and will play on Saturday for the Bronze medal against the loser of USA and Canada.

BA Press Release on Rollers:

The Australian Men’s Wheelchair Basketball team, the Rollers, will be the favourite to win Gold in the final at the 2010 IWBF World Wheelchair Basketball Championships after a tremendous come-from-behind victory over the United States, 68-58, in their Semi Final overnight in Birmingham, England.

It was their toughest test at the tournament thus far and the Rollers passed with flying colours; their stirring effort in the final quarter will have them heading into the Gold medal game with great confidence.

The Australians will play France in the decider from 1.15am Sunday July 18 AEST. The two teams met in the opening game of the championship; the Rollers prevailed 75-63 after the French led by one-point at halftime.

Roller Justin Eveson had his best game at the championship to lead the Aussies with 27 points, including 17-of-19 attempts from the charity stripe. Shaun Norris and Brad Ness put up nearly identical numbers in support with 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists each. Michael Paye topped the USA’s scoring with 17 points, but was the only American to reach double figures.

After leading at the first break the Rollers were in chase mode for the rest of the game, only wresting back the lead with less than four minutes to play before sealing the win at the free throw line in the final minutes.

The opening quarter was a great spectacle with neither team willing to give an inch to the other. Both teams had plenty of scoring opportunities but the Rollers were able to capitalise and take a one-point lead at the first break, 17-16.

Two missed shots from the Rollers was all the opening the USA needed to get away to a nine-point lead with two minutes to play in the second term.

But Australia’s Norris followed up a 3-point play by grabbing a defensive rebound and dishing to Ness who nailed the shot in the paint to reduce the margin to four points. The USA answered to take a six-point lead into halftime, 35-29.

Ness threw a full-court pass to Eveson who drew the contact, nailed the layup and the bonus to bring the Aussies back within two points in the third quarter.

The Rollers were hanging in until a couple of missed shots and a turnover in their final three plays of the third term were followed by a Paye 3-pointer on the buzzer which gave the USA some breathing space at the final break, extending their lead to eight points, 51-43.

Five consecutive points to Tristan Knowles cut the margin from nine to four points, 54-50, with seven minutes to play when Rollers coach Ben Ettridge called his players to the bench for a timeout.

Coming out of the break, Paye missed an easy layup and Dylan Alcott made the USA pay at the other end, cutting the lead to two points, but Paye answered once again.

Time was running out for the Australians with the deficit hovering at four points as the clock continued to wind down. Eveson took a charge and it was the momentum changer the Rollers had been waiting for.

In the bonus, Eveson nailed the free throws, and the margin was back to two. A technical foul from Joseph Chambers sent Eveson to the line again with 3:40 on the clock. He nailed the first, missed the second; the USA’s lead now just one point, 56-55.

Not learning their lesson, the USA sent Eveson to the line again, this time icing both attempts to put the Rollers one-point in front, 57-56, with 3:25 left to play.

The USA answered but Alcott drained a 3-pointer to put the Australians ahead by two and the Rollers would not let the win escape them from there.

Alcott said after the game, “It has been two years since we have had a good look at the USA play. We stuck to our guns throughout the 40 minutes and backed ourselves. We knew if we continued to play tough uncompromising defence we could pull through.”

The Australian Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team, the Gliders, take the court in the women’s Bronze medal playoff at 6.30pm AEST Saturday July 17, followed by the Rollers in the Gold medal decider from 1.15am AEST Sunday July 18.

[Box Score]

Quarter by quarter:

1: AUS 17 USA 16
H: USA 35 AUS 29 (19-12)
3: USA 51 AUS 43 (16-14)
F: AUS 68 USA 58 (25-7)

AUSTRALIA 68 (J Eveson 27, S Norris 11, B Ness 11) def
UNITED STATES 58 (M Paye 17, M Scott 9, J Nelms 9)
At National Indoor Arena, Birmingham, England

2010 IWBF World Championship Finals Schedule

Friday July 16: Classification Finals (5th-12th Playoffs)

Saturday July 17: 09:30 Women’s Bronze Medal Game Australia v Canada (6.30pm AEST)
11:45 Men’s Bronze Medal Game Italy v USA (8.45pm AEST)
14:00 Women’s Gold Medal Game Germany v USA (11.00pm AEST)
16:15 Men’s Gold Medal Game Australia v France (1.15am Sunday July 18 AEST)