By Tom Degun in Birmingham
July 17 - Australia's men and the United States women claimed gold at World Wheelchair Basketball Championships at the National Indoor Arena here today.
Australian's saw off France 79-69 while the US edged Germany 55-33 in a thriller.
The final match of the Championships saw reigning Paralympic champions Australia take on the tournament’s surprise package France, who had ended Britain's medal hopes in the quarter-finals.
Australia went into the match as favourites and their first half performance saw them live up to that tag as they took an early lead to finish the first quarter five points ahead.
Theyt stretched their lead in the second quarter to claim a comfortable 45-29 half time lead and move closer to the title.
The second-half, however, saw France come out fighting as they refused to let go their grip on a gold medal.
France outscored Australia in the third quarter by 17 to 14 as hopes of a comeback gathered pace and in the final quarter, they again pushed the Australia and reduced the deficit to six points.
But some key three point misses by the French towards the end of the game meant that Australia were able to pull away and make the game safe to lift the title for the first time.
For France, Sofyane Mehiaoui was again the star player as he scored 16 points but Australia's Justin Eveson and Shaun Norris were the game's standout performers and did the damage for the gold medallists by claiming 23 and 18 points respectively.
With his magnificent performance, Eveson also cemented his place in the tournament’s top scorer list.
The women’s gold medal encounter between Germany and US was a repeat of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic final and saw the two evenly matched teams compete in an extremely close contest with the game not being won until the final seconds.
Germany took a 14-10 lead at the end of the first quarter but neither side could really pull away from the other.
At half-time Germany still led but by the narrowest of margins as US cut the deficit to one point at 30-29.
By the end of the third quarter there was still no separating the teams as the scores were level at 40-40.
In the decisive final quarter, with just six seconds left on the clock , the US scored to make it 54-53 in their favour and as Germany played out their final offence, a field goal conversion would have won it.
However, Simone Kues’ shot was blocked by Andrea Woodson-Smith and the game was all but over.
US had time to shoot two free throws, missing one and scoring the other to give a final score of 55-53.
The result saw the US add the World Championship title to their Paralympic gold and the Germans feeling deflated and disappointed with their silver medal.
Becca Murray was in excellent form once again with 25 points and a superb shooting percentage of 71 per cent.
For Germany Marina Mohnen was again the top scorer and Gesche Schunemann also had an excellent game scoring 15 points but it was the US flags that were flying highest.
Meanwhile, the women's bronze medal match saw reigning world champions Canada take on Australia.
In the first quarter, Australia steamed ahead as they established a 17 -8 lead.
The second quarter though, was far much more even with only one point the difference in the score.
Canada continued the comeback by cutting the difference to just three points at the end of the third quarter but in the final quarter, they pulled away with an outstanding 10 minutes where they outscored the Australians 21-8 to claim the bronze with a 10 point victory.
In the men's bronze medal match, European champions Italy took on the US with both sides were looking to make up for the disappointment of missing out on playing in the final.
The US raced ahead and by the end of the first quarter held a lead of 15-10.
Italy came back in the second quarter but US kept them at arm's length throughout.
Joseph Chambers of the US was the main threat in both periods and Italy were struggling to contain him.
At half-time the score was 31-23 to US but Italy felt that they still had a chance to come back into it.
The third quarter however, finished all chances of an Italy comeback as US tightened up their defence and started to take all of their chances on offence.
Italy simply could not find a way through and the end of the quarter saw US restrict Italy to just six points while scoring 21 points of their own.
Going into the final quarter the score stood at 52-29 and US could sense the victory was theirs.
Italy fought hard but US had too much for them and the match ended 71-42 as the US secured the bronze to make it a successful day for the team after their women claimed gold on the final day of a fantastic tournament here.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
July 2010: British men finish on high at World Wheelchair Basketball Championships
July 2010: Australia to take on France in World Wheelchair Basketball Championships final
July 2010: British basketball hopes crushed on night to forget
July 2010: Double delight for Britian's basketball players
July 2010: Britain's basketball players reach quarter-finals with defeat over Poland