Australia’s Men’s Wheelchair Basketball team, the Rollers, advance to the Gold Medal Game undefeated and will face either Canada or Great Britain in the decider tomorrow at 6.00pm. The Rollers received a standing ovation at the final buzzer for their effort in throwing off a persistent British side for a commanding 14 point win.
Beijing Gold medallist Justin Eveson was the clear standout on the scoreboard, leading all players with 24 points. Nick Taylor added 11 points at a 100 per cent clip, including three from 3-point range, Rollers Captain Brad Ness also bagged 11 points.
Head Coach Ben Ettridge was pleased his team came out after holding a two point lead at half time and ran away with the win.
“I think it’s a testament to Great Britain; they’re improving and they gave us a really tight tussle,” Ettridge said.
“There were no panic stations at halftime, we just looked at what we had done as a team to get us this far and I think we started the second half with four stops and four scores in a row and they called a timeout and that pretty much set the tone from there that we were playing back where we needed to be.”
The Rollers’ South African-born guard Nick Taylor found his range in just his third Australian rep game to finish the game shooting a perfect 8-of-8.
Ettridge said Taylor is stilling adjusting to his new team.
“I think he’s settling into the team, I think we’re starting to use him. For us it’s kind of like a kid on Christmas Eve, you’re looking at your Christmas presents and you can’t open them, we have to wait a little while before we can use him as much as we want but he’s a world class athlete and he does a great job for us,” Ettridge said.
After a 63-50 loss to the Canadians last night the Brits looked like a new team as they matched it with the Paralympic champions from the tip off.
There was tension in the arena as the crowd realised that the Rollers would not have it all their own way when the Aussies only held a two point advantage at the first break, 18-16.
There was heavy chair-on-chair action as the Brits kept coming in the second quarter and stole the lead for the first time three minutes into the term before Taylor lit up from behind the arc.
The Australians fired up in the second half and picked up their shooting percentage to slowly creep away from the Brits and hammered home the result in the final quarter.
With 14 players in the team for this tournament Ettridge must select the 12 players that will contest the decider.
“We’ll go with an experienced group tomorrow; the guys have all played really well which is a luxury that we have, that everyone’s contributed. There’ll be a few that we’ll toss up overnight, we’ll look at different combinations that we need to use,” Ettridge said.
Ettridge may have fewer players to pick from than he would like; forward Bill Latham suffered a dislocated finger in the second quarter tonight and will visit the hospital to determine whether he will be fit to play tomorrow.
While winless Japan will contest the Bronze medal game, their result tonight against Canada will determine whether the Canadians or Brits take on the Australians in the Gold Medal Game tomorrow.
The Bronze Medal Game tips off at 4.00pm AEST before the Gold medal decider at 6.00pm.
Quarter by quarter:
1: AUS 18 GBR 16
H: AUS 33 GBR 31 (15-15)
3: AUS 53 GBR 46 (20-15)
F: AUS 69 GBR 55 (16-9)
AUSTRALIA 69 (Justin Eveson 24, Brad Ness 11, Nick Taylor 11) bt
GREAT BRITAIN 55 (Jon Hall 10, Dan Highcock 9)
At Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre