Canada are back on top of the world after a 54-50 victory over London 2012 Paralympic champions Germany in the gold medal game of the 2014 women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship on Saturday afternoon (28 June) in Toronto, Canada.
The win was Canada’s first World Championship gold medal since 2006 when their streak of four straight gold medals was broken at the 2010 edition of the tournament.
It also was a comeback for the Canadian squad after finishing out of medal contention at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
“I gotta say, coming from sixth place in London back to the podium, that’s what we talked about and I don’t think a lot of people had faith that we could move that high up in the rankings but the team believed that we could and we bought into a common goal and a common plan,” Canadian veteran Tracey Ferguson said after the game.
Germany ended the first quarter with a slim 12-11 lead with Canada shootingt just 26 per cent from the field in the first quarter.
Canada came out strong to start the second quarter and took the lead. Germany battled back but it was Canada that had a three point lead at half-time.
The game would continue to go back in forth in the third quarter with Germany taking a 28-27 lead with 6:37 left to force a Canada timeout. A nice shot by Katie Harnock gave Canada a three point lead at the end of the third.
Germany would tie it up at 40 in the fourth but Canada would continue to carry the momentum. A big two point shot by Ferguson with just over three minutes remaining put Canada up by six and they would hold on to win.
Janet McLachlan and Cindy Ouellet were the leading scorers for Canada with 15 points each. McLachlan collected a double-double by picking up 19 rebounds.
Marina Mohnen had 20 points for Germany to go along with six rebounds and four assists.
For Ferguson, it was her fourth World Championship title and to win it in front of friends and family was special.
“This is pretty brilliant, this is a chance to compete in front of family and friends and you know, we took care of World Championship so we have the Parapan Ams next summer and that’s our qualifier for Rio 2016 so it is crucial that we do our best there as well and I think we’ve set the tone, we’ve shown the world that we’re back ready to compete with the best and be the best,” Ferguson said.
Earlier in the day at the bronze medal game, European champions the Netherlands defeated the USA 74-58.
Sparked by an amazing performance by Inge Huitzing who put up 43 points, nine rebounds and five assists in over 38 minutes, the Dutch earned their first podium finish ever at the World Championships.
“Inge Huitzing, she is the MVP of this tournament,” the Netherlands’ head coach Gertjan Van der Linden, said. “In the last three to four years, we have built her up to be a wheelchair basketball player and she is one of the best in the world. She is a point guard and she can shoot, but she can also read the game and that's the most important thing.”
The game started out very even, with both teams trading shots back and forth. At the end of the first quarter, it was the USA with a 16-13 advantage.
The USA would continue to lead up until two minutes remaining in the first half when the Netherlands would take a slim lead and carry that advantage into halftime at 29-28.
The second half would be a much different story with the Dutch carrying the entire pace of play and outscoring the USA 18-10.
Despite the USA trying to keep pace, the Dutch scored 27 points in the fourth quarter to cap off the victory.
“We did a really good job,” Van der Linden said. “The girls had a terrible night because of the loss to Canada. But altogether we also did a good job.”
Rebecca Murray was the USA’s leading scorer with 22 points and 9 assists.
The loss marks the first time the USA has ever been held off the podium at the World Championships after claiming gold in 2010.
In morning action from the tournament, Great Britain captured fifth place with a thrilling 77-70 overtime win over Australia while China finished in seventh with a 64-30 win over France.
The World Championships were a test event for next summer’s Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games which will also be held at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. The Parapan Am Games will act as a qualifier in wheelchair basketball for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.