THE Australian Gliders have qualified for the medal rounds of the women’s wheelchair basketball after defeating Mexico 62-37 in their quarter-final at the North Greenwich Arena in London.
The Australians have set up a semi-final meeting with the winner of today’s quarter-final between the USA and Canada, for a shot at qualification for Friday’s gold medal match.
The 25 point win was set up by a dominant first half performance from the Australians with Amber Merritt (14 points) and Cobi Crispin (12 points) helping the Gliders to a 24 point half time lead, whilst Kylie Gauci was outstanding throughout for Australia, contributing seven points and assists, as well as a crucial steal in what was arguably her best match of the tournament to date.
Australian coach John Triscari was able to rotate his squad and rest some players who have played a lot of minutes through the group stage, with the West Australian happy his team had got on top early.
"It was the plan to get on top of the Mexicans early. The thing is, early on in the tournament the USA got beaten by the Turkey side in the men's competition. I remind the girls of that every single game that there are 10 nations here, the Mexicans, the Brazillians etc are very passionate and want to perform for their country. So I asked the girls to go out and 'hit' the Mexicans as hard as we hit the Netherlands, and play as tough as we do against the Netherlands and the Germans. Once we got on top of them we knew that they (Mexico) would waver a little bit. They (Mexico) stuck in there."
"It's a win! The Mexicans played it tough to the end. They hung in there. OK, we got on top of them and we were able to practise some of the stuff we will use later on. We also managed to rest as many players as possible," he said.
The dual talents of Queensland’s Crispin and WA’s Merritt have received many plaudits in the tournament to date, but Triscari was quick to point out that the Australian defence has been the catalyst of the teams’ London campaign.
"Most top coaches in the women's wheelchair basketball competition recognise our defence is second to none in the world. Full credit to my assistant coaches Ben Osborne and David Gould who have done a lot of work in that area. We have changed things and we have modified things and I think we are there. I think we have the best defence in the world and a lot of our offence comes from there."
Amber Merritt said the Gliders had at no stage underestimated their Mexican opponents.
"It was a really good performance. We came out quite strong. We came out not underestimating the Mexicans because they are quite a strong team as well so we came out there, respected them and played as hard as we can."
"As a team we keep our culture as strong as possible. Ball reversal is very important in our game and making sure there is enough space for people to cut into and not to take each other's space away, so that was really good."
By Chris Abbott