Qualification for the 2016 Rio Paralympics proved one match too far for the Sasol-sponsored national women’s wheelchair basketball team on Saturday as they went down 60-47 to Algeria in the showpiece final of the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation’s Africa Qualifiers, in Algiers, Algeria.
Playing in front of a large, chanting crowd at the Nadi Basketball Stadium, the Amawheelagirls showed commitment to claw their way back from a first quarter deficit of 19-7, to have a chance of victory with the score at 29-25 down at half-time.
While Misqah Kamaldien and Kelebogile Moeng were again key players in most of the Amawheelagirls defence-turned-to-attack movements, the third quarter Algerian onslaught which totalled 18 points to the12 to the South Africans, made the final quarter task to be the toughest of challenges for the visiting team.
Experienced Sasol Amawheelaboys head coach Franck Belen, who assisted regular national women’s team head coach Willie Mulder, must receive credit for offering his time and expertise which played an important role in getting the national women’s team to the final.
His defensive patterns, actioned by the players, proved to be a major headache for the Algerians, but the speed of the Algerians coupled with their accurate shooting, proved to be the downfall of the Amawheelagirls.
‘I must commend the Sasol Amawheelagirls on making the final in their first appearance at the African Qualifiers,’ said Belen afterwards.
‘Playing Algeria in Algeria is quite different from playing matches in SA, and the experience that they obtained this week will help them as a team. Like the men’s side, they need to play as many international matches as possible to gain the experience needed to be a consistent force on the international scene.’
Earlier, Belen had mentored his Amawheelaboys team to the bronze medal in the men’s competition, as they saw off the challenge of Egypt 77-65.
Picture of SA player Duduzile Ntombiyenko and Algerian opponent Dahbia Zaira in action on Saturday is courtesy of Abbey Sebetha/Bakonepix