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Setback for wheelchair stars

The Sasol South African wheelchair basketball team lost their opening match at the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation’s Africa World Cup Qualifiers by three points to Algeria.

The visitors won the tightly contested duel 71-68 at Mandeville Indoor Stadium in Johannesburg on Sunday night.

The Algerian team raced to a quick lead through the accuracy of number nine, Nabil Guedoune, and dominated early to lead by six points at the end of the first quarter. At the long break, South Africa were chasing a deficit of nine points, down 33-42.

The home side stepped up their defence and strung together three goals and an equal number of free throws to equalise the score, then finished the third quarter trailing by just one shot.ÔÇ¿┬áÔÇ¿With a slender cushion at 52-51, Algeria raised the bar again in the final quarter and forced an early three-point lead.

A final buzzer goal from Zouhir Boulafa sealed South Africa’s fate.ÔÇ¿┬áÔÇ¿National coach Viv Sierra admitted that the team were not prepared for the Algerian attack and that a first round defeat was unthinkable.

ÔÇ£Perhaps we were just a little too confident, but we were not prepared for what Algeria threw at us tonight,ÔÇØ said Sierra. ÔÇ£They caught us off guard, they came out much stronger than we anticipated and played a total game from the start. We took two quarters to catch up and that hurt us in the end.

ÔÇ£We will view this as a harsh lesson, a reality check, and we will just have to come out twice as hard to turn this around, starting with our next game against Kenya.ÔÇØÔÇ¿┬áÔÇ¿Richard Nortje was the top goal scorer for South Africa with 23 points, while Guedoune was responsible for 26 of Algeria’s points.

In other matches, Angola scored a seven point win over Kenya (48-41) while Zimbabwe lost in a 97-8 drumming to Morocco.ÔÇ¿┬áÔÇ¿Since the withdrawal of Gabon and Nigeria, the remaining countries will play round robin matches this week to determine the semi-finalists for Friday, October 9, with the final round still scheduled for Saturday, October 10.

The winner of the Africa World Cup qualifiers will earn a spot in the world class line-up for the IWBF World Championship in Birmingham next year.

First round results

Game One: Morocco 97 Zimbabwe 8

Game Two: Angola 48 Kenya 41

Game Three: Algeria 71 South Africa 68