A winning margin of 21 points to the Japanese would see Great Britain’s men’s basketball team crash out of the competition in this year’s Paralympic Games and it was a position that on the back of three games in which they played some fantastic basketball and have made a lot of friends from those in the arena and watching at home. Surely the unthinkable wouldn’t happen and the see a Japan side that has struggled throughout go through in their stead.
The North Greenwich Arena had been thrilled by the earlier games of the day and now was in full voice to cheer on Great Britain to the quarter finals. The Japanese team though wouldn’t make it easy for the boys in blue and had every thought of going through themselves.
Despite early skirmishes into each other’s half’s and where it looked as though it was going to be cut and thrust throughout, Great Britain started to show they meant business as Bywater and Jama went all out to make sure of the reaching the last eight.
The courage of both sides to go out and attack even if there was nothing on was symbolic of the ethic of the whole basketball competition and it reflected in the score at the end of the first quarter of 25-14 in Great Britain’s favour. The worrying aspect of the game, as far as Great Britain were concerned, was the speed of the Japanese counter attack, thankfully they didn’t make as much of the possession as they could of done.
The closer half time came, the more likely the match could only go one way, Finbow was in inspired mood, Bywater once again proving to be a thorn in the opposition’s side, Munn was having his game of the tournament and Orogbemi and Pollock providing the necessary midfield holding that had been lacking in previous games. The game against Canada aside, the other four games that The Bulldogs have taken part in have seen them play fluid and attractive basketball, the only thing that has let the spirit down is the ease in which the British team seems to be able to fall asleep when they get a sizeable lead. Rather than go out take a team apart it seems as if the sense of fair play that is so honour bound in British sport extends to letting a team back in it rather than making sure of the victory.
With a lead of 46 points to 24 at the half time period, it seemed that the British team had finally taken that point in and were now looking at making sure of the place in the quarter finals.
Japan started strongly in the second half, gaining six very quick points but soon the experience and delightful play of the British once more shone through with some incredible attacking play by Munn, Choudhry and Bywater gave The Bulldogs an almost unassailable lead of 23 points as the last ten minutes of the game beckoned.
With almost nothing but pride to play for, Japan seemed to relax. Like a team that knows it’s about to relegated no matter what happens in the last three matches of a season, suddenly they perform better because the pressure is off them. The gap didn’t decrease but neither did it widen and it was with some frustration that British coach pulled off the squad for a time out and it was the idea of creeping complacency that he was worried about, enough to make the British start to act like a team again. Minute after worrying minute, the score narrowed to 13 points before Sagar managed to get the ball through the net and restore the semblance of a 16 point difference.
With 20 seconds on the clock, a snatch by Bywater set Sagar free to covert another basket for the team to make sure, despite two scares, that Great Britain are still on course for the gold medal.
Great Britain: Choudhry, Highcock, Sealy, Bywater, Munn, Pollock, Jama, Byrne, Sagar, Finbow, Hall, Orogbemi.
Coach: Murray Treseder
Japan: Fujii, Masubuchi, Tokairin, Kozai, Sato, Suzuki, Kyoya, Toyoshima, Shiromaru, Miyajima, Nakazawa, Fujimoto.
Coach: Yoshiaki Iwasa.
Final score: Great Britain71 – 55 Japan
Player of the match: Simon Munn (Great Britain)
Group B: Canada 68- 42 Columbia.