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Rollers crowned World Champions
The Rollers have been crowned World Champions after defeating France, 79-69, to claim the title at the 2010 IWBF World Wheelchair Basketball Championship in Birmingham, England.
Going into the game as favourites, the Australians withstood the pressure to confirm their status as the number one team in the world as they now add their World Championship gold medal to the gold they won two years ago at the Paralympic Games in Beijing.
After playing in the opening game of the tournament, the teams had good knowledge of each other; in their first meeting France had led by one point at halftime before being overpowered by the Australians in the second half as the Rollers took the 12-point win 75-63. It was a completely different game in the final with the Australians dominating from the outset but forced to hold off a fast-finishing France in the final quarter.
Roller Justin Eveson led all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-11 attempts from the field at 64 per cent. He added nine rebounds and three blocks. Shaun Norris was in support with 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds while Brad Ness had a game high of 10 rebounds to go with 12 points and three assists.
Brett Stibners had six points, six assists and seven rebounds in the final.
“The boys are over the moon as today the Rollers have made history. All 19 (players and coaching staff) did their job and we have backed the Beijing gold with our first World Championship win for the Rollers,” Stibners said.
“Everyone is very content with the effort and we delivered on our expectations.”
Michael Hartnett added "We wanted to dedicate the win to all of the Rollers who have gone before us and laid the foundations for this great program."
It only took a short time for the Rollers to settle into the game but after a couple of missed shots from both teams, Norris made a steal in the back court, dishing to Ness under the basket to open the scoring.
A go-ahead pass to Justin Eveson on the fast break added to the Aussies’ points and a one-two play between Norris and Ness saw the Australians up 6-0 as the French called a timeout.
The Australians continued to dominate after the timeout with Ness a formidable presence on the defensive boards, creating numerous opportunities for the Aussies.
The Rollers forced France into a shot clock violation which the Australians converted at the other end to go 10-0 before the French finally got on the board through their go-to player Sofyane Mehiaoui.
That basket opened the floodgates for France as they began to work their offensive plays and closed the gap to five points at the first break, Australia ahead 20-15.
With all the Australian starters on the bench at the start of the second quarter there was no reprieve for France as Tristan Knowles hit six consecutive baskets to open the term and dished two assists to Bill Latham and Michael Hartnett, who was reliable from range, putting the Rollers ahead by 14.
With the French back within nine with three minutes to play in the quarter, and Australia’s starters back on court, a neat 3-point play from Norris put the margin back out to double figures.
With the Australians making a couple of turnovers late in the term, Rollers coach Ben Ettridge called his team to the bench to re-gather before their final play of the quarter. The Rollers did not convert out of the timeout but forced a turnover from France to get a second chance; Norris iced two free throws for a 16-point lead to the Aussies at halftime, 45-29.
The Australians had shot an amazing 58 percent from the field in the opening half, and were destroying France on the boards, winning the rebound count 21-8. Most importantly, they had restricted France’s key player Mehiaoui to just five points to halftime.
France began to find their men under the basket in the third term as some misses began to creep into the Rollers’ game before a sweet stroke from Eveson put the advantage out to 19 points.
France upped the full court pressure, forcing some turnovers before the Australians adjusted. Norris was forced to the bench when awarded his fourth foul, an offensive charge, midway through the third but the Australians held on for a 13-point lead at the final break, 59-46.
A Laurent Blasczak basket reduced the Australians’ lead to nine points, four minutes into the final term but the Rollers were relentless and when France called a timeout two minutes later, the Rollers were back out to a 12-point lead.
Mehiaoui brought it back within nine points and as he dished to Audrey Cayol, who sunk the trey, the margin was just six. Ness was sent to the line but converted just one of two attempts and with 1:53 on the clock France called a timeout to try and make something happen in the final minutes.
Ness’ basket attempt rimmed out and as Mehiaoui’s 3-point attempt also hit iron, the Australians were still holding on to a seven-point margin, 76-69, with 0:49 to play.
France was forced to try their chances from long range to cut into the margin and foul the Australians to stop the clock but could not connect on their shots, and as the Rollers bench continued to chant from the sidelines, Eveson nailed two free throws to seal the win.
Earlier the Australian Women’s Wheelchair basketball team, the Gliders, had finished fourth as Canada claimed bronze, Germany silver, and the United States, gold. The USA won the men’s bronze after overpowering Italy.
Quarter by quarter:
1: AUS 20 FRA 15
H: AUS 45 FRA 29 (25-14)
3: AUS 59 FRA 46 (14-17)
F: AUS 79 FRA 69 (20-23)
AUSTRALIA 79 (J Eveson 23, S Norris 18, Tristan Knowles 12, B Ness 12) def
FRANCE 69 (S Mehiaoui 16, D Levrat 14, J Courneil 13)
By BA Media