A superior team performance has helped 2008 Paralympic bronze medallists Great Britain overcome a sluggish start to record a hard-fought 64-54 win over upstarts Japan on the first night of the Rollers World Challenge international men’s wheelchair basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre.
Japan’s Reo Fujimoto was unstoppable and led all scorers with 31 points and a game-high 19 rebounds, but found little support from his teammates. Hirokai Kozai was the next highest scorer for Japan with just seven points.
For Great Britain, Jon Pollock had a team-high 22 points as well as rebounds and eight assists. Joe Bestwick also added 17 points and Jon Hall had 11.
Despite being heavily favoured, Great Britain started slowly, allowing the Japanese to establish a 15-8 lead at quarter time behind the play of Fujimoto. The Japanese star had nine points and seven rebounds for the period.
Despite facing full-court pressure from the Brits, Fujimoto’s rampage continued unabated in the second quarter, as he took his points total to 17 at the half. Even with his efforts, Great Britain still managed to make some inroads into the Japanese lead and at the half trailed by just five points, 22-27.
Great Britain continued to surge in the third period, outscoring Japan 16-12 to close within a single point at the final break. Fujimoto was still managing to find ways to score with another eight points for the quarter, but was getting little help from his teammates.
In comparison, the British were sharing the scoring load around and were taking advantage of their superior size to outmuscle the Japanese in the paint.
Following a Japanese turnover, Great Britain took the lead with seven minutes left in the game on a two from Kevin Hayes, 43-41. Japan were then outscored 11-3 over the next five minutes as the buffer blew out to ten points, 54-44.
The Japanese were forced to foul to try to claw back the game but the British managed to convert their free throws to run out 10-point victors.
For the match Great Britain had a significant 40-28 advantage in points in the paint, nullifying the 50-38 edge Fujimoto’s rebounding provided.
Quarter by quarter:
1: GBR 8 JPN 15
H: GBR 22 JPN 27 (14-12)
3: GBR 38 JPN 39 (16-12)
F: GBR 64 JPN 54 (26-15)
GREAT BRITAIN 64 (Jon Pollock 22 points, Joe Bestwick 17, Jon Hall 11) bt
JAPAN 54 (Reo Fujimoto 31 points, Hiroaki Kozai 7, Tetsuya Miyajima 6)
At Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre
Photo courtesy of Guil Hornos for Kangaroo Photos