As a coach I often relate to people that you're somewhere between the crowd and the players, and of course physically that's exactly where you are; but more so in the sense that the coaching staff provide direction, or instruction to the athletes, relay a game plan or whatnot, but ultimately have to watch the athletes deliver on this. This week I spent considerable time with specific athletes who individually performed at an exceptional level. I would never take credit for anyone else's performance, and they of course, did all the hard work. But let me say that I have never felt so proud, and so involved. The details below and the photos can never truly tell the full story or show the input of EVERY player, without whom this simply wouldn't have been possible.....
|Helen "Hooch" Freeman|
The GB team out rebounded their German opponents and the depth in their bench, which has been a common theme throughout this tournament, saw them storm to a commanding 15-point lead by half-time, and it was a lead they didn’t surrender for the remainder of the game.
Unsurprisingly it was Freeman, who has dominated the paint for Britain this week, who opened the scores with a clean lay-up. And from there GB and Germany alternated baskets with as much speed as they showed up and down the court, but it was the host nation who ended the period with a slender 16-15 lead.
|Amy "Tiger" Conroy posting up against Germany|
Freeman only had to wait until four minutes into the second quarter to enter double digits, when her basket took her to ten and Britain to a five-point cushion at 22-17. They extended the difference when first Freeman turned provider, setting up Helen Turner and then she added to her own tally. A pair from the free throw line for the University of Illinois student, bucket from Louise Sugden and shot off the glass for Turner saw GB’s 10-point run put them in a commanding position going into halftime, with them asking Germany to respond to a 36-21 lead.
And it took Germany over two minutes of the third quarter to find an answer as GB continued to lock them out. Having picked up an early three fouls in the first half, Conroy returned to the floor and immediately cancelled out the German basket. And once the gates had opened Britain came flooding in, in the form of another six points which saw them stretch a game-high 19-point lead.
A couple of German buckets managed to weather the storm, but where in previous games Freeman had been the driving offensive force this time GB were very much a double-pronged attack, with Conroy on target to match Freeman’s 14 points and see her side 46-32 good at the end of the third.
And it was perhaps apt that WNBA side, the Atlantic Dream, who are in Manchester for a game on Sunday, were introduced to the crowd before the fourth period because GB were very much living the dream on the court in their quest for a first gold at the BT Paralympic World Cup.
|Laurie "Legend" Williams about to hit a tough shot under pressure|
Freeman is no stranger to American basketball either, as a student of the University of Illinois, and she had definitely been a firm friend of the free throw line during this week’s tournament so there was little surprise that she calmly and assuredly slotted a pair home early in the fourth.
Gada Jammoul was ejected from the game with four minutes left to play and Germany’s frustration was clear as Great Britain continued to break down plays and rack-up the defensive rebounds. Each time Germany shot there would be at least one red jersey under the basket waiting to pick off the leftovers, while GB were also sure to keep them away from the charity strip.
As the final minute ran down GB broke away and Conray played it off the glass. Germany responded before they fouled Freeman who made one for two from the free throw line. Mareike Adermann was the second German to foul out when she picked up two in quick succession, the first on Sugden who made one for two and then on captain Claire Strange who hit one. Schenemann added a basket to take her personal to 18 but the effort was in vain against a British team who had dominated this final from the very start.
I guess the real beauty of the performance and the tournament as a whole was the team are still not playing to their full capability. They are excelling and yet there is even more to come.....
...I can't wait.