Great Britain’s Men will play for bronze at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games after coming-up against a strong Japanese team in the semi-finals, losing 68:79 in a highly-competitive and close-fought game.
It was another resilient display from ParalympicsGB with Gaz Choudhry scoring a game-high 26 points and double-figure points totals for Lee Manning, Gregg Warburton and Abdi Jama, but it was the hosts Japan who progressed through to the final and GB will now fight for bronze against Spain on Sunday.
ParalympicsGB made a fast and confident start to the game; Lee Manning putting GB three points ahead with 11 seconds gone on the clock with a basket and free-throw as GB dominated the early play.
Abdi Jama found space outside the paint and was as clinical and consistent as he has been from those positions throughout the competition, ending the first quarter with eight points. Choudhry and Warburton were influential with the ball, both in terms of assists and points scored, both scoring four points in the opening quarter as GB led 15:23 after the opening 10 minutes.
It was a lead that would extend to 10 thanks to Manning’s composure from the free-throw line after neither team scored a basket in the opening two minutes of the second quarter. A three-pointer from Gaz Choudhry restored the 10-point lead as Japan began to find the basket consistently.
Japan’s on-point shooting, including from the three-point line, cut the lead to four points with four minutes to go in the second quarter, but, just as they have done throughout the tournament, Manning and Choudhry added important points to the scoreboard in response.
But the last scoring of the second quarter saw GB’s lead cut to three with Japan’s fourth three-pointer of the game.
A back and forth start to the third quarter saw Japan lead for the first time in the game, but, ParalympicsGB made sure they responded. Player-coach Choudhry leading the scoring response with the lead changing five times in the opening two-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter.
Japan put a scoring run together and build a four-point lead but Choudhry and Warburton responded from inside the paint for ParalympicsGB. After Warburton brought the scores back level, Japan’s lead went to six but a basket from outside the paint with 31 seconds left of the quarter saw Warburton bring GB to within four points with one quarter to go.
It was set-up to be another nail-biting finish for everyone watching and, while the score line may suggest it wasn’t a tense conclusion to the match, especially when looking back at the one-point wins against USA and Australia, it certainly got the heart-pumping as GB fought to the very end and ensured Japan had to work extremely hard for victory.
The opening minutes of the fourth quarter turned into a shootout between both teams as Japan extended their lead to seven with a three-pointer within the opening nine seconds of the quarter. It was the beginning of a spell that saw points scored on each team’s offence, Choudhry, Manning and Warburton all adding to their tallies, including another three-pointer for Choudhry which closed the gap back to three.
With four minutes, 52 seconds left of the match, it was still a four-point game, the quarter score level at 15:15 as both teams showed incredible composure and quality when on offence. With only four points separating the team, it was a game that could have either way.
But Japan held strong in defence and continued to add points to their total and a scoring run of 7-0 saw Japan lead by nine with three minutes to go. But ParalympicsGB never stopped believing, Manning and Harry Brown both cutting the lead to seven before a successful free-throw from Terry Bywater made it a six points difference with 67 seconds left on the clock.
GB continued to fight, digging deep, trying to cut the deficit in the final minute, but it was Japan who would go onto extend their lead further as they won 68:79.