The Sasol South African senior mens wheelchair basketball team put up another brave display in going down 49-41 against Africas No1 ranked side Algeria in semi-final action at the 2nd International Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, in Morocco on Friday.
Algeria, who used the tournament as part of their preparation ahead of being Africas representatives at the International Wheelchair Basketball Federations World Championships in Korea next month, led 16-14 after the first quarter before a whirlwind South African display saw the Sasol AmaWheelaBoys hold a surprise 27-24 lead at half-time.
The Algerians dominated the third quarter and led 44-33 after the third session. But Sasol SA team head coach Franck Belen had nothing but praise for his young team.
In the space of five days of matches, I have seen young new faces in our team putting their hands up to be counted and with this sort of passion and commitment we will be able to make a few of the higher profile wheelchair basketball playing nations cry results-wise within a year from now, said Belen.
Algeria are in excellent physical condition ahead of the world championships, bearing in mind that several of their players have just come off a 10-month league season in Europe, while the South Africans are really only starting our season now back home.
Belen added: We arrived at this tournament with no fewer than five of last years SA Under-23 team players in our team, with the aim of giving our youngsters as much game time as possible. I wasnt worried about the scores this week.
“We are working on a far bigger picture here which fits in with Wheelchair Basketball and Sasols four-year plan to develop this sport in SA by 2017.
This year is about team building. After a number of experienced players retired from the sport after the 2012 London Paralympics, we have been looking to young talent to step up and take the national team forward. SA are not involved in any major events this year, so it is important to prepare the team in order to succeed in our Paralympic qualifiers against African teams in 2015.
The South Africans will finish their Moroccan adventure, with a 3rd/4th play-off match on Saturday before returning to prepare for a Sasol All Star Series, in which they will face France in four international matches at Mandeville, near Johannesburg, from 25 July to 1 August this year.