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Watford pair on losing side again as Great Britain beaten by Australia in Paralympics wheelchair basketball
9:12pm Friday 31st August 2012 in Sport
Helen Freeman and Sarah Grady's hopes of making the quarter-finals of the London 2012 women’s wheelchair baskaetball tournament suffered another knock-back at the North Greenwich Arena today as Great Britain were handed their second defeat in two days by Australia.
Twice Paralympic silver medallists and third in Beijing, the Australians were always going to provide a stiff test as Britain’s women, including the two Watford players, attempted to bounce back from their 35-point defeat to Netherlands on day one.
Head coach Garry Peel described his team’s efforts as “disappointing” against a strong Australian side who dominated from the start and finished comfortable winners, 51-24.
Peel said it was frustrating to see his side apparently struck by nerves in front of a large crowd but believes they will improve as they seek victory in their remaining two group games.
“They know what went wrong in the game and we know how to fix it,” said Peel. “I’m disappointed for them, for the crowd, as we know we can play better basketball than that.
“We didn’t stick to the game plan and it’s frustrating to see the girls come out and play with such little confidence. You can see them tighten and tense which means they aren’t shooting as well as they can and are missing easy shots.
“We now have to go and beat either Brazil or Canada to secure a quarter final place which is going to be a really tough feat.”
Buoyed by their thrillling victory against Brazil on Thursday, Australia came out of the traps at a pace and raced into an 11-5 lead at the end of the first quarter. It was an assertive statement of intent from the side that finished fourth, just two places above Britain, at the 2010 World Championships in Birmingham.
Britain began to ask questions of their opponents in the second period but the Australians took a timely time-out and returned with the answers, eventually out-scoring the hosts 14-6 to go in at half time with a comfortable 25-11 lead.
Urged on by skippers Clare Strange and Louise Sugden, Britain needed to make inroads on the Gliders’ advantage early in the second half, but with the impressive Portsmouth-born Amber Merritt on fine shooting form, and Aussie captain Bridie Kean controling possession from the board, it was the green-shirted side who pressed home their superiority.
For the second day in a row, Peel had some stern words for his players. Briefly, it seemed to do the trick as Britain rallied in the final quarter, and for the first time almost matched their opponents as former Rickmansworth School pupil Freeman finally found her range.
But by then the gap was too much and Australia finished the game 27 points ahead.
Plymouth’s Judith Hamer top-scored for Britain with eight points, while Freeman contributed seven.
Despite the disappointing result, Strange believes Britain will still qualify for the knock-out phase.
“It was a disappointing game but we now have to refocus and look ahead,” said Strange, from Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire.
“We have to make the quarter finals so we need one win out of the next two games. And once you are in the quarter finals you don’t know who you’ll meet and what could happen.
“The crowd are fantastic and getting behind us. We hope to build on their support and show them what we can do.”
Britain have little time to dwell on their defeat, however, as their next group A game is against Brazil at the Basketball Arena tomorrow morning.