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GOLD in Wheelchair Basketball

England South, the team GMS’s student PJ O’Donovan plays for, won GOLD at the School Games National Finals. It was the first multi-sport event for young athletes, since the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

It was a fabulous weekend, athletes from all over the UK travelled to Loughborough University: over 1,300 selected athletes competed across 10 sports, including disability disciplines over three days.

This year it was slightly different for a few reasons. Firstly, there were no spectators allowed due to Covid. This seemed to have bothered the parents more than the athletes, but Youth Sport Trust live streamed all the events. Secondly, the basketball format changed; this year 3 x 3 was introduced and the traditional 5 v 5 was dropped. As the name suggests, 3 x 3 has 3 players from each team on the court.  All wheelchair ballers are classified through a point system, depending on the severity of their disability: a 1 point player is the most disabled, a 5 point player is able bodied. Rules allow a maximum of 9 points on court. Games are played on a half court and last 10 minutes. No coaching is allowed during a game and substitutes are made by the team when there is a dead ball. If the ball changes possession, the ball must clear the 3 point line before a shot can be taken. A basket taken inside the 3 point line counts for 1 point, outside the 3 point line, shots count for 2 points, so it’s a 2 point line in 3×3!

PJ O’Donavan, GMS’s wheelchair basketball player, writes.

“7 teams entered this year. Action began at 9am on Friday with our team playing England North, we led for most of the game but lost by one basket at full time. Gutted. We knew we could play better than that. We had a long wait for our next game at 3.30pm, when we met Scotland White. (I was named ‘Sleepy’ by my teammates for my ability to nap between games!) This encounter went better and we won 17-3. Finally, the last game of the day was against Wales. We’ve done battle with Wales many times before and they’re a tough team, Wales have a very strong talent pathway. This year, however, it was our win ,with the final score being 13-8.

After all that it was back to student accommodation (which was very nice) for a shower before dinner. (Sadly, dinner wasn’t so nice).

Day 2 brought 3 more games. First up was Scotland Blue, looking to exact some revenge. Thankfully, it wasn’t their day, and after a lot of buckets for breakfast we came out on top, 15-4. Time for another restorative nap before our next game at 2 pm, when we faced England Pink. This turned out to be our toughest game, possibly as a lot of us have played for South East together, so know how each other plays. This was the one and only game of the entire competition to go to overtime. In this situation it’s the first team to score 2 points who wins. Thankfully, that was us and the final score was 12-13. That did mean we’d meet them the following day in the semi-final. Our last game of the day was England Green, and we won that 18-7.

Day 3. Medal Matches.

It was a late start for us, as we’d finished 2nd in the pool games, which meant we went straight to the semi-finals and a re-match against England Pink. We’d obviously had a much better night though, because there was no overtime this time: 10-3 to us! The other semi-final had been won by England North, so the wheelchair basketball competition would end with the two teams who kicked off the tournament on Friday. England North v England South. It was a close game throughout, the score staying within a few points until the last couple of minutes. Then, for the first time at School Games, England South won Gold by 15-9!

If you compete in any of the sports included in the School Games Finals, I strongly recommend you ask your coach about the pathway to being selected.

If you have 10 minutes, and would like to see my sport you can watch the final on the link below at 5.33 in”

School Games 2021 – Wheelchair Basketball – Final Day – YouTube


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