/ 29 July 2007

SA wheelchair basketball team forge ahead

The South African wheelchair basketball team are on the brink of qualifying for the Paralympic Games in Beijing after advancing to the final of the qualifier on Saturday.

Team Sasol beat Egypt 71-53 in their semifinal at the Omnisports Stadium in Rabat and will now clash with Morocco for the one Africa spot at the Paralympics next year.

The hosts thumped Kenya 69-24 in the other semifinal, setting up a mouth-watering encounter between Africa’s two best sides.

Richard Nortje (26) once again spearheaded the South African attack with 28 points. The Italy-based player controlled the court with his audacious skill and deadly accurate shooting. He landed 11 field goals, three free throws and a solitary three-pointer.

He was ably assisted by fellow high-pointers Jeremy Nel and Richard Curle. Nel scored 12 points off the bench and Curle contributed 10 points as one of the starting five.

South Africa began the game like a house on fire, scoring 23 points in the first quarter. Their concentration dropped in the second quarter, scoring just eight points, to lead 31-26 at half-time.

The South Africans regrouped at the break, and a 20-point third quarter won the game for coach Viv Sierra’s team.

The Egyptians could only manage 12 points in the first period after half-time and South Africa went into the final quarter 51-38 up.

Another 20 points down the stretch was enough to see South Africa advance to a winner-takes-all tie on Sunday.

”I’m extremely happy,” Sierra explained. ”The guys got the job done and now they can get their minds right for the big game. We’ve been preparing for five-and-a-half weeks for this moment and now we need to stand up and be counted.” — Sapa