Basketball team

Britain’s basketball team face adversity as Tokyo’s quest for gold continues

When their head coach tested positive for Covid and was forced to stay home, Britain’s men’s wheelchair basketball team appeared to be a ship without a captain in Tokyo.

But through rough seas they managed to make their way to the Paralympic Games semifinals – and will stop for a bit as they chase gold.

It is true that it took Britain a while to step up a gear in their quarter-final against Canada, but when they did they were irresistible as Gaz Choudhry got them led to a 66-52 win.

They will now face Japan in the semi-finals on Friday and know that a victory will propel them to a gold medal match that would be as remarkable as it is unlikely after a stressful start to the Games.

Head coach Haj Bhania was almost done packing when he learned he had tested positive just 48 hours before the plane left.

In a last-minute reshuffle, star player Choudhry has been installed as player-coach and is tasked with leading the squad in Tokyo.

He proved he does a good job in both departments by scoring the best score with 21 points against Canada and said the upheaval created a siege mentality.

“It’s easy to be a team when things are going well, it really is,” said Choudhry. “I’ve been on teams where it seemed like sunshine and rainbows, but all kind of adversity and it’s a house of cards and it crumbles.

“We are a team that no matter what adversity we face we merge better and we are like a block of Jenga, you keep taking pieces but we seem to stay strong. And no one has yet found a movement that turns it all around.

“It was an absolute punch. But we have a mantra that anything crazy can and will happen and this is the kind of year that everyone goes through.

“So we had that planned, we had very strict protocols, like a person broke down, that sort of thing. We played out the scenarios and were convinced that even if that happened, we would overcome them. “

Great Britain have become the comeback king in their last two games at Ariake Arena.

In their last group game against Australia, they reversed a 13-point halftime deficit to win 70-69 in the final second and, while it wasn’t as dramatic against Canada, their quick finish was always impressive.

Canada led 30-26 at halftime, but Great Britain outscored them 24-9 in the final quarter to advance to the final four.

“I don’t know what it is, we seem to play our best when we’re back to the wall and I don’t know why,” added Choudhry.

“If I could bottle what we did when we broke down, we would have it from the start.”

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