The Dutch women’s wheelchair basketball team are off to a strong start on their road to Tokyo 2020 after defeating Australia 55-40 in the finals of the Osaka Cup that concluded Saturday (11 February) in Osaka, Japan.
For most of the four teams in the friendly tournament, it was one of the first international meetings and all were looking to give their younger players more experience.
On the Dutch side, which is working to improve on a bittersweet bronze from Rio 2016, players such as Lindsay Frelink, Julia van der Sprong, Sylvana van Hees and Amy Kaijen, gained valuable playing time.
The Netherlands fell to host nation Japan in overtime 69-68 but rebounded, trouncing Australia and Great Britain, 67-39 and 72-40, respectively to earn their way into the gold medal game.
London 2012 silver medallists Australia are looking to return to the Paralympic Games after failing to qualify for Rio 2016 and saw their first international competition under new coach David Gould. They came back stronger in the finals.
They forced the Dutch to sloppy turnovers and difficult shots that saw the first period end in a 12-12 tie. Mariska Beijer stepped up for the Dutch in the half to finish with 18 points. The Dutch also had much-needed help from Inge Huitzing, who added to the scoring. Carina de Rooij’s modest five assists and five rebounds in 22 minutes were also needed in the Dutch squad.
Beijer earned Most Valuable Player of the tournament. Her teammate Huitzing, Great Britain’s Sophie Carrigill and Joy Haizelden; Australia’s Amber Merritt and Japan’s Hagino Mayo were named on the All Star 5.
More information on the Osaka Cup can be found on the event’s Facebook page.