Gliders split opening games of Toronto Challenge

Gliders split opening games of Toronto Challenge

It has been a strong start to the tour of Canada and USA for the Australian Gliders, splitting their opening games of the 2014 Toronto Challenge.

The tournament – the test event for the 2014 IWBF Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championships to be held in Toronto – got off to the best possible start for the Gliders, easily accounting for Japan 53-30 on Wednesday.

Despite only arriving in the country shortly before their first competitive hit out of the tour, the Gliders showed why they were able to claim silver at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, cruising to a comfortable 23-point win.

After an expected slow opening, the Gliders clicked into gear, outscoring their opponents 43-22 after quarter time, with a strong spread of scorers (10 of the 12 players got their name on the score sheet) led by Cobi Crispin, Bridie Kean and Amber Merritt – all with 10 points.

Gliders Head Coach Tom Kyle was able to give all 12 players a run and said he was pleased with his team’s ability to play out the game.

“I was very happy with the first-up effort from all our players, particularly on the defensive side of the ball,” Kyle said.

“Our aggressive defensive style is paying dividends, with Japan unable to match our intensity without the ball for long enough stretches.

“The important thing for us is that we are a legitimate 12-deep team, which will stand us in good stead for this tournament and the rest of the tour.”

The Canadians presented a greater challenge to the Gliders, with the hosts eager to get some winning form ahead of June’s World Championships.

It was an arm wrestle in the first half as the lead changed numerous times before the Canadians established a 38-34 lead at the main break. The high-scoring continued in the third quarter as the Gliders made their move, outscoring the hosts 22-15 to take a three-point advantage into the final change.

Defensive intensity stepped up in the final period, with baskets at a premium for both teams. The game was decided by late free throws by the Canadians, sealing a narrow 76-73 victory.

Crispin and Merritt led from the front for the Gliders, each scoring 18 points – contributing almost half of the team’s points – with Kylie Gauci and Leanne Del Toso adding 10 points apiece.

Kyle said the performance of his players gave him confidence they can match it with the likes of Canada and will be better placed if they meet in June.

“Considering we are still dealing with the effects of the long journey, the coaches were extremely happy with our girls’ performances,” Kyle said.

“Jet lag is no excuse, but the performance does please us as Canada had to play out of their skins to win by three.

“Overall we need to take care of the back court coverage. We gave up 20 points from fast breaks, which is something we will definitely address in our next hit out.”

The Gliders face The Netherlands on Friday before rounding out their Toronto Challenge against Canada on Saturday.