Two teams with something to prove to their fans; the enticing prospect of a semi-final place beckoning like an exotic charm and with both teams having made the last eight with three wins out of five under their belt, it was all to play for at the North Greenwich Arena.
For the British Bulldogs, having seen the women’s team perform as well as they had done all tournament and yet unfortunately lose to the German side in the quarter final the day before, home pride was at stake.
Four quarters, ten minutes each way to decide on which country was tactically more acute and aware to get through to the last four, the clever money may have been on the British and the right arm of Terry Bywater, the ingenuity of Jama and the work rate of Hall, Sagar and Finbow but it would have taken someone with nerves of steel to back their house on them, especially after the opening two games of the Paralympics.
The opening two quarters was a tense affair and like the women’s game almost 24 hours previously, low scoring, this really was a case of welcome to the last eight boys, show us what you can do. It was also possibly the most physical encounter of the tournament so far with both sides mindful of what was at stake.
The main danger from Turkey was from Ferit Gumas, a player of natural ability and who was obviously playing well enough to distract the British team to give them just the advantage of a 2 point lead at the half time hooter.
The second half of the match started well for The Bulldogs scoring a delightful three points from outside of the area and with the ever reliable Terry Bywater following up from a rebound. Pollock was also playing some wonderful shots and it galvanised the British team to a much better game. However the Turkish men were not going to let the Brits have it all their own way, shot for shot they matched anything the British managed to put down. The second part of the third quarter saw the scoring slow down slightly but some nifty work by Ian Sagar after three rebounds saw the margin increase and then with a flourish and one delightful pass, Terry Bywater, receiving a great pass from underneath his own basket, steadied himself and as the hooter went the ball floated incredibly down and through the hoop to give the side a further three points.
The last quarter of the game saw the British side nine points up. From the stands, the crowd obviously enjoying the spectacle; were vocal in their appreciation of the spirit that both sides had shown during the match. If there was one man on the day that deserved a huge pat on the back at that was Joni Pollock, three baskets of three points apiece was incredible shooting, fancy maybe but incredible none the less.
On the side lines the Turkish coach was doing his best impression of a man desperate to see his charges make the most of their possession but not to neglect their defensive responsibilities either, waving his arms up and down as he prowled the side lines, if Turkey needed any further inspiration, he was doing his best to give them it. It was obviously working as well as the Turkish side closed the deficit to one point with 20 seconds to go.
Great Britain did just enough in the last few moments to make sure of a guaranteed medal, one too many fouls by the Turkish players gave Terry Bywater the chance to have two free throws and with this young man, a man who became the youngest person to play for Great Britain at the time, made sure of the points gratefully given him. They don’t come any more unruffled or unflappable than Bywater and when the odd decision to give Britain a further two more free throws, again Terry Bywater seized the chance offered and made sure that Great Britain would indeed be in the semi-finals yet again.
Great Britain: Choudhry, Highcock, Sealy, Bywater, Munn, Pollock, Jama, Byrne, Sagar, Finbow, Hall, Orogbemi.
Coach: Murray Treseder.
Turkey: Ercan, Gurbulak, Gundogdu, Turan, Ar, Acar, Geninci, Dalay, Yilmaz, Gumus, Arslanoglu, Boz.
Coach: Mehmet Onut.
Final Score: Great Britain 75 – 70 Turkey
Player of the match: Joni Pollock (Great Britain), Gurbulak (Turkey)
Ian D. Hall.