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- Updated: October 11, 2011
The South Africa wheelchair basketball team kicked off their campaign at the African Paralympic qualifiers with a nail-biting 63-62 victory over rivals Egypt in Rabat, Morocco on Monday.
The South Africans came into the tournament fresh from a character-building tour of Australia and the lessons learnt clearly showed as they produced a passionate and controlled performance to lead throughout the match.
After leading 16-10 in the first quarter, the Egyptians enjoyed the better play in the second as they went in just 28-25 behind. South Africa upped the ante in the third through, surging to a 51-40 lead but were hampered when Richard Nortje had to leave the court on his fifth foul, allowing Egypt a way back into the game.
While the Egyptians threw everything they could to get the victory, a good team effort in defence kept them out and gave the South Africans the victory.
The game could prove decisive as only one team will qualify for the London 2012 Paralympics, and a victory over either Morocco on Tuesday night or Nigeria on Wednesday should secure a spot in the qualifying final on Thursday.
Coach Patrick Fick praised his side’s commitment to see the game through. ÔÇ£It was a great effort from the guys and we worked so hard to get to this point. There was a lot of character, especially when we lost Richard with four minutes to go and only being up by four, we still managed to pull it through,ÔÇØ Fick said. ┬áÔÇ£This win sets us up for the tournament and we should beat Nigeria, and then have a good shot at getting into the final.ÔÇØ
Fick had high praise for the Egyptians. ┬áÔÇ£They were tough to beat, you can’t write them off and they played a fantastic game. They have a chance to beat Morocco and get into the final as well.┬á We just need to keep on winning.ÔÇØ
While the victory had its highlights, including some great performances from Nortje and veterans Marius Papenfus and Sipho Gumbi, Fick praised the entire team for their resolve. ÔÇ£It was a great team effort, especially when Richard was gone, and you could see the character coming through.ÔÇØ
South Africa now face Morocco on Tuesday night in their next match.