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‘It feels amazing’: Determined Canadian basketball men secure Paris Paralympic berth | CBC Sports

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Canada’s men’s wheelchair basketball team will return to France in August to continue its run of Paralympic appearances from 1968.

The Canadians scored early and often in Monday’s crossover game against Italy and never surrendered the lead, prevailing 72-60 at the last-chance qualifier tournament in Antibes.

They will travel to Paris this summer in search of their first gold medal since 2012 in London after being crowned Paralympic champions in 2000 and 2004.

“It feels amazing,” the 44-year-old Anderson told Wheelchair Canada Basketball. “I was getting emotional looking up in the crowd and seeing my wife Anna and the kids. For the team, it was the perfect win in terms of getting contributions from everybody and building on the last three days, as crazy as that sounds.”

Eight countries will participate in the Paralympic tourney, down from 12 in recent years. The reigning world champion United States previously qualified with Great Britain and Spain, which placed 1-2 at the European championships, and Australia (Oceania-Asia champions). Canada, Netherlands, Germany and either France or Morocco will round out this year’s field.

The Italians, who won all three of their games in group play in France, were looking to return to the Summer Games for the first time since London, where they placed 10th.

But their shooting from the field was off from the outset of Monday’s contest, as Italy shot only 36 per cent while Canada converted 30 of 50 shots for its first win in four attempts at the repechage tourney in France.

“Even though we lost all three of our previous games, we did improve from game to game,” said Anderson. “We caught Italy maybe on an off day, and we got awesome contributions from everybody. It was a really special team win.”

Anderson, whose shooting wasn’t at its usual level in Antibes ahead of Monday’s contest, delivered when it counted most, leading all players in points (23), rebounds (12) and assists (5).

WATCH | Canada earns 1st win at Paralympic qualifier, books ticket to Paris:

Canada’s men’s wheelchair basketball team locks down spot at Paris Paralympics

Canada defeated Italy 72-60 Monday at a last-chance Paralympic qualifier in Antibes, France, securing a berth at the Paris Paralympics.

Italy cuts 18-point deficit in half

Nikoka Goncin and Vincent Dallaire, who played all 40 minutes, had 11 points apiece while Giulio Maria Papi and Filippo Carossino each counted 16 points and five rebounds to top Italy.

The Italians, who trailed 51-33 with 3:17 left in the third quarter, picked up their play and closed to within 52-43 with 32 seconds left on the clock.

On Sunday, Italy erased a 19-point Germany halftime lead to win 72-63, so Anderson said Canada was well-prepared for a second-half push by its opponent.
 
“There was just no relax on a day like today. It’s impossible to let your guard down,” he said. “There wasn’t much that needed to be said other than to keep making them work. There was no chance we were taking our foot off the gas.

“We’ve got some veterans on the team. We just kept our eye on stuff we focused on in the first half.”

The Canadians didn’t panic and widened their advantage, with Anderson making it 68-57 after a layup and free throw. He added another pair of foul shots for a 71-60 lead with 1:18 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Claudio Spanu collected Italy’s fifth three-pointer of the game with 3:40 left to make it a nine-point game (64-55) but Andrea Giaretti twice and Carossino missed from that range in the final minutes.

Italy had started fast in each of its group games but it was Canada, fresh off a heartbreaking one-point loss to Iran on Sunday, that came ready to play.

It scored the first six points of the match and led 8-2 on 4-of-6 shooting, while the Italians scored on only one of their first seven tries from the field. The Canadians also mustered runs of 8-0 and 7-2 to begin the second and third quarters.

“They missed a few shots early, but we hit some stuff early, and it just gave us confidence right off the jump,” Anderson said. “I think it gave us a little bit of a boost and just that little bit more wind in our sails.”

Canada outrebounded its opponent 45-23 and maintained the lead throughout despite 14 turnovers to Italy’s five.

WATCH | Full replay of Canada vs. Italy:

Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Paralympic Qualifier: Canada vs. Italy

Watch Canada take on Italy in wheelchair basketball at the paralympic qualifier in Antibes, France.

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