(Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Sept. 15) – Canada scored with 0.9 seconds on the clock to claim a 50-49 overtime victory against Great Britain in wheelchair rugby today, securing a spot in the semi-finals.
“The team played with so much heart,” said High Performance Director Andy van Neutegem after the game. “All the preparation that we’ve done came down to that 0.9 seconds. It was a hell of a game.”
Canada had a few early stumbles and found themselves down by as much as three in the first quarter. In the second quarter, however, the lineup of Michael Whitehead, Miranda Biletski, Zak Madell and Trevor Hirschfield began to put pressure on British big man Jim Roberts. Britain struggled to carry the ball across the line, and by halftime Canada was up 24-23.
In the third quarter, however, Canada committed four turnovers in less than four minutes and quickly went down by three again, ending the third 36-33.
If Canada felt the pressure of their perilous situation going in the fourth quarter, however, they didn’t show it. Madell fired up his team in the opening seconds by hitting Roberts into the cone. The true turning point came at 4:33 when Madell and Biletski toppled two British players in quick succession, stole the ball, and tied the game. The game remained tied 45-45 going into overtime.
Canada didn’t appear worried.
“We’ve been in this exact situation against this team in the past,” said Zak Madell. “No one was scared out there. We knew that if we kept going out there and working as hard as we could, we would be successful.”
Whitehead won the overtime tipoff for Canada. Moments later, Madell forced Bhuta to burn a timeout. In the final 20 seconds, Hirschfield and Madell worked together to steal the ball from Roberts. With the clock running down, Hirschfield caught a difficult pass to carry the ball across the line with 0.9 seconds left.
“Zak gets a lot of credit and he’s a good player in his own right, but I truly believe that Trevor Hirschfield is the best player in the world,” said head coach Kevin Orr. “He just has that warrior spirit. That’s the mindset we’re going to need to win a gold medal.”
Canada will play Australia tomorrow at 19:15 in the final game of the round robin. Though Canada has already qualified for the semi-finals, a win against Australia would put the Canadians first in their pool.
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