South African U23 National Team narrowly miss out on the Fazza Semi finals

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Following the disappointment of losing to Great Britain in their opening game on Sunday, the SA U23 Sasol Amawheelaboys faced the daunting task of having to beat the United Arab Emirates Senior National team, in Group B of the 9th Fazza International Wheelchair Basketball Tournament hosted in Dubai, in order to progress further in the competition.

Facing the older and seasoned UAE campaigners, was not an issue for the young South Africans, as they matched the men from the Emirates, play for play and made their intentions clear to all that they intended to put the previous day’s loss behind them. The first quarter saw the two teams exchanging the lead throughout, with the UAE side ending the first quarter with a narrow 16-15 lead.

The Sasol Amawheelaboys, struggled to establish control of the game, and young Eastern Cape Suns guard Ayabonga Jim found himself in early foul trouble, with 3 fouls leaving Coach Allan Mtatase no choice but to replace him with young 14-year-old North West player Bofelo Ramonne.

Despite a nervous start from the youngster, once his nerves settled, he began to make his presence felt, and together with Captain Steven Walgenbach they managed to keep South Africa in the match.

At half time the UAE were leading 32-27 and began the second half aggressively, in soon had a 12-point lead over the South African youngsters. To their credit though, the young men from Mzansi managed to tighten up their defence and began chipping away at the lead, ending the 3rd quarter 39-46.

Sensing an upset the boys gave it their all in the final quarter, narrowing the gap to 1 point with less than a minute to play. However, the experience of the men from the Emirates proved to be the difference at the end, as they forced the youngsters into three crucial turnovers, which proved costly and the final buzzer sounded with the final score 62-56 in favour of the hosts.

Next up for the South African’s is a match against another Senior Men’s team, Saudi Arabia which will round up the tour for the youngsters on Thursday.

Despite the disappointment, Gerhard Smith, Team Manager of the SA U23 Sasol Amawheelaboys felt there were some encouraging signs amongst the team. He said “taking into consideration that we have a very young team, who are taking part in their first International Tournament, the experience of playing against the like of Great Britain U23, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabian Senior teams, will serve as an invaluable preparation for the team, as we head to the World Championships in Toronto. We will go home from Dubai, having learnt a lot about the boy’s temperament and can focus on ironing out the areas that need to be rectified.”

Brenda Mopeli, Sasol Brand Marketing Specialist said” at Sasol we support potential that inspires, we are extremely proud of our boys as they fought hard for a win. Despite the loss again today, the experience for the South African youngsters will afford them the opportunity to make the necessary adjustments ahead of the World Championships in Toronto starting in early June.

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