(LONDON) Canada defeated host Great Britain 69-52 in their wheelchair basketball semi-final match on Thursday and will face their arch-rivals from Australia to decide the 2012 Paralympic gold medal. The championship game, scheduled for Saturday, September 8th, at 9:15pm BST, will be the third consecutive time Canada and their familiar foes from down under will square off in the final to decide Paralympic supremacy.
Canada and Australia, who are also world champions, have split the victories in the previous two Paralympic gold medal games. In 2004, Canada bested the Aussies 70-53 to lay claim to their second straight gold in Athens, while Australia ended Canada’s bid for a three-straight Paralympic titles with a 70-62 defeat of the Canadians in Beijing in 2008 – a game that the Canadians have not forgotten about.
“We’ve got some fire and I’m pretty sure they have some fire too. It’s going to be a great match and I hope the world has a chance to see it,” said co-captain of Team Canada David Eng of Montreal, Quebec.
CANADA THUMP HOST GREAT BRITAIN IN SEMI-FINALS
The first two quarters were evenly matched, as the determined British team stifled Canada’s shooting -the Canucks shot just 38% from the floor in the first two frames, but were still able to take a 33-27 lead into halftime.
“We came out smoking, and the bane of a lot of teams here is that they have weak first quarters and that has not happened to us in this tournament,” said Team Canada Head Coach Jerry Tonello.
Canada then began to pull away in the third quarter, outscoring Great Britain 24-10 and leading by as many as 22 points, before finally sealing the victory in the fourth.
“It was a grind ’em out kind of game, but in the third quarter we spaced the floor better and allowed our offence to work properly,” said Tyler Miller, of Kitchener, Ontario.
“It’s good to have the veterans to talk you through every step because they’ve been here before. Their presence is everywhere, and we’re a real close team so that helps to keep us grounded,” added Miller.
Fergus, Ontario’s Patrick Anderson led a spirited Canadian offence, falling one rebound short of his third triple-double (17 points, 11 assists, and nine rebounds). He heads into the gold medal final leading the tournament in points per game (23.7), assists (56), and is second in rebounding (11.1 per game).
Canada owns a 2-1 record against Australia over the course of the previous four Paralympic Games, with their last two meetings consisted of the previous two gold medal finals.
RESILIENT CANUCKS BLAZE BACK AGAINST MEXICO; WOMEN TO PLAY FOR FIFTH
The Canadian Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team poured in the points against Mexico on Thursday and set a team offensive record by outscoring their opponent 74-53 (their highest output in the last four Paralympics). Canada, who finished fifth at the 2008 Beijing Games, will look to match that standing in their final London 2012 game Friday September 7th, 2012 at 10:45am BST.
Canada made it very clear from the opening tipoff that they were unwilling to simply roll over following a disappointing quarterfinal defeat on Tuesday. They came out firing on all cylinders and almost immediately went on a 16-point run to put them up 30-4 at the end of the first quarter – a lead they would not relinquish.
“It was tough to refocus after the other night (losing the quarterfinal against USA) but we decided we were going to come out, re-energize ourselves and focus on team basketball. I thought we did a really nice job, especially at the beginning of the game – and it is hard to do that at 8:30 in the morning sometimes,” said Team Canada Head Coach Bill Johnson.
It took Janet McLachlan, of Vancouver, BC, less than ten minutes to land her sixth double-double in as many games. The tournament’s leading point producer and rebounder continued her torrid pace, finishing with 24 points and 13 rebounds – both game-highs. Thus far she is averaging 26.7 points per game and 16.7 rebounds per game in the tournament.
“Janet just has great hands,” said Tracey Ferguson of Holland Landing, Ontario.
“It’s always nice to just be able to have her out there and to have a confidence that she is going to knock that shot down. And you know she has great hands on defence too and she steals a lot of balls. She just plays with a lot of confidence and gives us a lot of confidence to be more aggressive out on challenging shooters knowing that she has our back in the key,” added Ferguson.
Cindy Ouellet, of Quebec, QC, also finished with a double-double, contributing 14 points and 10 assists. She has now accumulated 44 assists, and is amongst the tournament leaders.
As a team, the Canadians shot a healthy 58% from the field, led by Calgary, Alberta’s Kendra Ohama who was nearly impeccable with 7-out-of-8 of her attempts finding mesh (88%). With a total 14 points on the board, Ohama was one of three Canadians to put up double digits.
Mexico seems to bring out the best in Canada. The Canucks 74 points is the highest single-game total on record (since 2000). The previous Canadian record was also against Mexico when they scored 71 points in a victory at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. They also set new benchmarks for 2-pointers made (34) and assists (27) in a single game.
“We had a great training opportunity this summer when we actually had a full week in Mexico City and played the Mexican team in five games. Having that experience against them really helped us today too because we know them pretty well,” said McLachlan.
For more information on Canada’s wheelchair basketball teams at the Paralympic Games, visit http://www.wheelchairbasketball.ca/events/paralympic-games/london-2012-paralympic-games/