One of the oldest sporting rivalries in the world, it doesn’t matter which sport, it’s the nature of the battle, the potential for a match of epic proportions and the knowledge that no matter what it should be a tasty game. Magnify that by the task ahead for both teams and the prospect of a place in the semi-finals of the women’s basketball competition and all of a sudden it becomes less of a pleasure and more problematic.
Germany came into the quarter final on the back of four straight wins in the tournament whereas Great Britain had just the won over Brazil to show for their pains.
It was perhaps with no surprise at all that Germany took the initial start of the game by the scruff of the neck and scored two quick baskets, both Mohnen and Zeyen making the most of the early confrontations and relaxing the German women on the court immeasurably. It was however more of a surprise to see Great Britain strike back with gusto. The next eight minutes saw the Great Britain women play as if the group stages hadn’t happened. A combination of some very fancy moves by Helen Freeman, Louise Sugden, Sarah Grady and Laurie Williams gave the first quarter to the home side with a margin of four points.
It seemed strange to see almost four and half minutes pass by in the second quarter with only four points scored, in fact the whole game up until that point had been very low scoring, unusually for any version of the great game. It was even more astonishing to see Germany with so few points on the board as all the way through the Paralympics they had been scoring for fun.
With Great Britain needing something to go into the half time period with, especially with Germany having a final good few minutes, Helen Freeman pulled a shot out of the bag that was so exquisite and dynamic it not only gave the crowd a lift but also the whole women’s tournament. With the last few seconds on the clock and Germany winning by the margin of four points, Freeman took the ball in hand from outside of the painted area and struck beautifully to give Great Britain a further three points.
The only way to describe the match as a whole so far; was nip and tuck. Neither side wanting to take full control of the court, baffling as far as Germany were concerned and for the British ladies it was a case of hats off in admiration that they had stretched and exasperated the German side so very well. With over five minutes gone in the third quarter, the scores were still very close, with Germany holding the slenderest of leads. Not something they had grown used to.
The third quarter ended with Great Britain, thanks in part to the heroics of Helen Freeman, still very young but with agility and playing ability of a woman twice her age, on the ascendancy.
The match had been almost as exhilarating as the men’s equivalent at the start of the competition and it was now also falling into the same familiar pattern with Germany going ahead and then Britain pulling them back. With less than five minutes to go on the clock, the German women took a five point advantage, almost immediately Freeman scored her 19th point of the match to take back the difference to three.
Where Britain had been lax was in the amount of free throws they gave away, it was costly and reckless. Less than two minutes to go it seemed as if the game was against the home nation as Germany carved out a six point lead. In the end, the British women had given everything they could, they had played superbly and for a while the prospect of them being in the semi-final was a juicy, tantalising thought. The German side, efficient and brilliant, were too much for them. An enthralling game of basketball and whilst the German’s go on to progress in the tournament, the British women can hold their heads up high and look back with pride of carrying the hopes of their fans as far as they did.
Great Britain: Maclean, Grady, Strange, Freeman, Williams, Hamer, Conroy, Thompson, Turner, Sugden, Davies, McPhee
Coach: Garry Peel.
Germany: Adermann, Welin, Dillmann, Mueller, Zeyen, Kuehn, Schuenemann, Lindholm, Breuer, Briessmann, Mohnen, Friedrich.
Coach: Holger Glinicki.
Final Score: Germany 55-44 Great Britain
Player of the match: Helen Freeman (Great Britain)
Ian D. Hall
Image: The Telegraph