Roller ball: Shaun Norris blocks Canada's Joey Johnson. Photo: Getty Images
AUSTRALIA'S reign at the top of the men's wheelchair basketball ranks was brought to a halt by Canada yesterday morning when the tournament favourite was beaten 64-58 in the Paralympic Games final in London.
The Rollers were the defending champions and 2010 world title holders but had no answer to Canadian star Patrick Anderson, who shot 34 points, as they went the way of the Australian women's team that lost its final the previous night against Germany.
''We knew that he [Anderson] was going to have to carry the team and we know that he has the capability of doing that,'' Australian star Justin Eveson said. ''Our goal was to eliminate him as much as possible and really stagnate the other players from scoring. We kind of did the job there; no [other Canadian player] was in double figures while we had three players in double figures. I think that's testament to the team play we play where there's not one guy taking all the shots. But in saying that, it worked for them, so well done to them.''
Australian coach Ben Ettridge said of Anderson: ''The greatest player in the world turned up and put up a great show.''
It was a tough battle between the two best teams of the competition. Australia led throughout most of the first half and had a 27-26 lead at half-time. But Canada then took control, edging ahead 46-42 at the end of the third quarter and controlled the final term as the Australians became increasingly desperate to lessen the gap.
Ettridge said the team, led by the senior players, would rebound for the next world championships in 2014.
''We're pretty lucky there's no long-term injuries in the group. Wheelchair basketball tends to extend athletes' lives. It is wear and tear but it's not like your knees or your ankles are going to give out, so most guys can keep pushing for a while. So guys like Brad Ness, Justin Eveson, Grant Mizens, who have been around for the longest, we'll do the right thing by them and, hopefully, we'll get them through to the world champs. And we've got a good crop of under-23 boys who are all sitting at home, who are chomping at the bit to knock a few guys out of that, which is what you want - you want that healthy competition.
''We've pretty much got a ready-made replacement in every guy sitting back at home, so they'll get those opportunities, and it comes down to who wants it the most.''
Veteran captain Ness said there was still plenty of potential in the team. ''You look at Eveson and [Shaun] Norris, they're out and out veterans, and Norris isn't even 30 yet, Justin's 32. Those guys will probably have another couple of Olympic campaigns in them. The nucleus, the driving part of the team, will still be there. We'll still be competitive for a long time.''