Great Britain shot their way to a Quarter Final place at the 2014 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship with a 64-47 victory over China in their penultimate game of the pool stages, Watford’s Helen Freeman on fire with a phenomenal 36 points.
The GB Women’s team, still missing Captain Sophie Carrigill due to illness, rallied together for the win as they worked their way to a 3-1 record with just one game remaining in the round robin – against hosts Canada at 11pm BST on Tuesday 24th June.
With everything still to play for in the pool stages, it was China who got off to the better start as Yong Qing Fu put the team ahead by 2-0 with GB’s shots not dropping. But, with just under three minutes played, Clare Griffiths fired one home for the GB Women with Freeman soon after completing the three point play to give Great Britain a 5-2 lead. China, however, hit back as they worked their way to a four point lead (13-9) before two more baskets from Freeman tied up the game once again. With just 16 seconds left on the clock Yong Qing Fu sunk another basket to give China a two point advantage (15-13) before Freeman hammered home a spectacular buzzer beater to level the match on 15 points apiece at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter saw Great Britain come out strong with shots from Freeman, Louise Sugden, and Amy Conroy giving the team a seven point lead (24-17) with just under five minutes remaining in the half. Once again, however, China continued to battle their way back into the game: shooting to within five points (26-21) before Joy Haizelden sunk a basket to extend the lead for the GB Women (28-21). The final 45 seconds of the quarter then saw Hai Zhen Cheng bring China back within four points (25-29) before Freeman sunk yet another basket to give Great Britain a 31-25 advantage at half time.
Great Britain returned to court raring for action in the third, the team finding another level to outshoot their opponents by 23-8 – Freeman with a phenomenal 17 points and two assists – to head into the final quarter with a 54-33 lead.
The final 10 minutes of the game saw China immediately close the gap down to 19 points before Maddie Thompson sunk consecutive baskets to take Great Britain’s lead to 58-35. With the score then at 60-37 to the GB Women, Fi Tillman sunk her first basket in a major tournament to give GB a 25 point lead (62-37). China continued to pressure their opponents, but it was the GB Women who took the win by 64-47.
GB Women Head Coach Miles Thompson said: “We’re still missing our Captain and people are still fighting this bug, but today we’re starting to show our depth. I knew we had depth because our practices are so tough, but now we have depth on a performance level: we’re at a point where we can bring in the youngest player of the tournament, 15-year-old Joy Haizelden, and we don’t skip a beat; in fact we increase the lead. And then you have a performance like Helen Freeman’s of just astronomical proportions: 16 from 21 shooting, an efficiency rating of 40 – I don’t think I’ve ever seen that, so just an off the charts game by her.”
Recipient of the Quickie Player of the Game Award and GB’s top scorer for the third time in the Championship, Helen Freeman said: “Today was really good: China are a good team, but we really played a good offensive game and tried to limit their bigs: they have good tall bigs who can shoot well, but also their low pointers are very accurate shooters, so we did a good job of shutting that down.
“It’s always nice to score, but the 36 points just came as a result of the rest of the team putting me in good positions: Laurie Williams will always get me good shots and I wouldn’t get points without the likes of her and the rest of my team.”
Maddie Thompson said: “It went great: we missed Sophie and what she brings to the team, but we were confident all the way through and it was good to see everyone getting the chance to prove themselves out there. I think that we’re having one of our strongest ever majors, so it really shows the work that Miles and ourselves have put in back at our base at the University of Worcester, so congratulations to Miles.”