After beginning the Paralympics with three losses on the bounce, the Canadian men’s wheelchair basketball team squeezed through to the quarter-finals with an impressive 63-52 win against Colombia.
Canada secured the final remaining spot from Group A to advance and now has the momentum to build on heading into the next round.
A focus on team fundamentals and limiting turnovers was a key difference in what was a vital win to keep Canada in the running for a medal.
“It took us a little bit to get the cohesion. Really, it started to come together in the Turkey game, but then we had other things we needed to work on once we started to figure out how to play together – cutting our turnovers down,” said team member Bo Hedges. “Then just figuring out how to win together.”
In two of their opening three losses, Canada turned the ball over 19 times in each defeat. In the win against Colombia, they only gave up possession four times over the entire 40 minutes.
The Canadians got off to a quick start, taking a 16-point lead into half-time. Taking care of the ball proved to be effective as they led the game for just over 35 minutes, with only one lead change throughout.
“The game went well. We executed exactly kind of how we wanted to in the first half,” Hedges said.
With quality ball retention came exceptional defence as the Red and White forced 12 turnovers, scoring 15 points off of those giveaways.
Limiting the South Americans to 39 per cent from the field was a solid outing for a defence that has been struggling so far in Tokyo, with this being the second-lowest field goal percentage allowed by Canada this tournament.
“We played good defensively, and as always, we’re continuing to improve on the defensive side. The defensive game always helps winning,” said head coach Matteo Feriani.
As the Canadians cleaned up their fundamentals, it allowed them to win comfortably without having to impress significantly on the offensive end. As a group, they shot a respectable 40 per cent from the field, which was enough to ultimately cruise into the quarter-final.
A lot of the offensive output can be credited to star player Patrick Anderson, who flirted with a triple-double, posting 22 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists in the victory. It wasn’t only the 42-year-old’s scoring display that caught the eye. Anderson was a menace on the glass with exceptionally accurate and effective passing to steer the Canucks to the all-important win.
Nik Goncin stepped up once again to take some of the offensive workload off of Anderson. Goncin also just missed a triple double, recording 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. The Bosnian-born Canadian has played exceptionally well as the second option and will need to continue at this level if the Canadians want to progress into the final four.
Team Canada will now go on to face a very highly rated Great Britain side that topped Group B, only losing one game so far this tournament.
Coach Feriani will be hoping to build on this latest win and force an upset against the British.
“We need to keep going. Now we have nothing to lose. Every game is a final,” he said. “We need to continue to improve in our defensive play and in our team game on the defensive side.”
The matchup is set to take place Wednesday at 5:15 a.m. EST.