In early June, Support through Sport UK's Claire was court-side for the men's final of the 2017 Continental Clash. She reports back...
This is becoming an annual pilgrimage for me; wheelchair basketball ranking high on my list of favourite sports to watch due to its high intensity, fast-paced action and often nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat score lines.
This year saw Japan, Australia, Germany and Great Britain battle it out over five days to earn a spot in the final: Germany and Team GB ultimately powering through.
The final was fast-paced, with the nets coming right from the first whistle. The teams were neck-and-neck, letting nothing get past them. The first quarter ended 16 points to GB, 15 to Germany.
The Brits continued to play hard in the second quarter and their defensive line held strong, winning back many balls from the German attack. Phil Bywater sunk net after net and the team managed to bring home a further 26 points, taking the score to 42-27 to Team GB at half time.
The third quarter saw Great Britain continuing to pull strong on the defensive and attacking well, finding their men and bringing home the points. However, the German side fought harder and played better; their impressive attacking formation finding the net 22 times, as opposed to GB's 14.
The Germans' momentum continued into the final quarter, with GB having to work hard to keep pace. Play fell back and forth, no side able to tip the other, and as the final whistle blew, both teams had brought home an 20 additional points each.
Luckily, GB's exceptional second quarter kept them in the lead and they won the match (and tournament) 76-69.
I took along a colleague to watch the match with me and this was her reaction:
“Having recently taken a new direction in my PE teaching career, going from mainstream to special education, my eyes have been opened to a whole new range of incredible sports, including, most recently, wheelchair basketball. So when the opportunity arose to watch the GB men’s team compete in the Continental Clash, I jumped at the chance.
Arriving at the competition and not completely knowing what to expect, I was hooked by the end of the first quarter. I was expecting the game to be significantly slower than basketball itself, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The fitness and the skills that these athletes possess is amazing. They were fast and agile around the court, dodging opponents, creating space and manoeuvering their chairs with ease. The concurrent dribbling and passing was accurate and powerful, and when you add into the mix the shooting prowess of the majority of the players on the court, scoring consistently during play and from the free throw line, this sport is, in my opinion, even more exciting than its counterpart. The atmosphere in the arena was lively and supportive to all of the teams that were playing. The close scores of the games and the atmosphere they created reflected in the crowds’ enthusiasm, and with more coverage and exposure it would be great to see more supporters at these events and competitions, watching these elite athletes compete in what is an incredibly exciting, fast-paced and growing sport. I for one, will be glued to the European Championships later this year.”