Saturday (20th June) saw the first day of competition at the Warrior Games with Wheelchair Basketball taking place at Marine Corps Base, Quantico. In the first of three days of play, the six forces teams did battle in a round robin tournament to establish seeding with a gruelling five hours on court over a nine hour period. The results determine the rankings for the elimination round.
Round 1 British Armed Forces v Air Force
The British Armed Forces (BAF) wheelchair basketball team of 10, with five players on court at any one time, entered their first match against a strong Air Force team. They tied at 2-2 in the opening minutes but dropped another six points to go 2-8 down. If the Air Force thought they were going to have an easy ride in this first of five games today, the Brits were out to prove them wrong. With seven minutes left of the 20 minute half, Army Lance Corporal Craig Winspear scored the equalizer from a penalty to tie 11-11. Air Force returned immediately to move to 15 points within the next minute but a BAF time out saw a response which moved the game in favour of our team to see a four point lead with the Air Force trailing 19-15. Two points to Air Force finished the first half with the BAF leading 19-17.
Veteran Army Gunner Adam Nixon opened the scoring in the second half of Round 1 to make it 21, answered by the Air Force who brought it back to 19 and soon equalized at 21 apiece. It was a game of cat and mouse for the next few minutes as the score crept up to a level 29-29 with goals on the BAF side from Charlie Walker and Gaz Golightly. With two minutes to go the Air Force just found that extra strength to score two goals taking four points and the win. Final score BAF 29 – Air Force 33.
Round 2 British Armed Forces v Navy
The team’s second game started goal for goal for the first few minutes until a hat trick from BAF captain Charlie Walker set them in the lead 10-6. Four minutes of missed opportunities from both teams followed until the Navy set the ball rolling again to come back to 10-8. BAF took the chance to stretch their lead and the half ended 14-8.
Refreshed from the break the Navy opened the final half with goals to go ahead 16-18, but that would be their last as BAF caught up and carried on scoring. The final two points came from Andy Roberts to finish the game on top. Final score BAF 21 – Navy 18.
Round 3 British Armed Forces v Special Operations Command (SOCOM)
High from their last win the BAF team made light work of game three. SOCOM tried to keep up with the pace but BAF were ahead from the off. With three minutes left to the end of the game BAF went 23-10 up and held that score until the end. Final score BAF 23 – SOCOM 10.
Round 4 British Armed Forces v Marines
The toughest game yet for the BAF against a team of Marines known for their strength in Wheelchair Basketball. Unlike the previous game tables were turned and this time BAF were the underdogs, finishing the first half behind 9-27. Despite a good effort the Marines just kept the goals coming leading the game for the duration with BAF barely getting a look in. Final score BAF 17 – Marines 42.
Round 5 British Armed Forces v Army
The Army took the lead in the first half of this final round game with the first 20 minutes ending 13-7. The score crept up for the Army at twice the pace of their counterparts with the BAF coach calling a time out with seven minutes left. Encouraging words spurred BAF on with a pace picked up to this time match the Army’s scoring. It wasn’t enough to make a comeback but it was peace of mind for some who think they should have won the game. Final score BAF 24 – Army 31.
Player Adam Nixon said of the day: “We’re absolutely knackered. The day could’ve gone better but we’ve not been playing long together. Lessons learnt. Onwards and upwards. The best match of the day was probably against the marines. Even though we lost we seemed to pull together more as a team. The worst match was against the Army. We shouldn’t have lost. Tonight we’ll rest and recover and then tomorrow every game is a new game.”
Coach Scott Wallace added: “The competition is spirited and boisterous but there’s great camaraderie amongst teams which allows good competition but also allows people to play at a level that they haven’t done before. What’s heartening is we brought a team with a lot of new players who are responding very well to the challenges put in front of them. Each of the US teams have some very talented and experienced players so everyone in our team is being pushed to their max. It takes a while to bond a team so that’s what we’re going through at the moment.
“We’re playing the Army tomorrow so it’ll be a rematch of tonight’s game. The players were very tired in their round 5 match against the Army after a long day of competitive basketball, they’ve had five hours of play. We’ll be fresh and ready for tomorrow and we’re here to do the best we can so let’s bring it.”
Preview Day 3
The British Armed Forces team’s performance today means they have been seeded fifth of six, ahead of SOCOM, in the elimination rounds. They are due to play the fourth seeded Army team Sunday evening with the winner moving on to the semi-final on Monday. Third seeds the Navy will play SOCOM while first and second seeded Marines and Air Force pass straight into the semi-final.