London 2012: Caroline Maclean on verge of quarter-finals with Paralympics GB wheelchair basketball

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CAROLINE Maclean believes Paralympics GB’s victory over Brazil could be the turning point in their London 2012 campaign.

The wheelchair basketball player, from Haverhill, had to wait until after half-time to make an impact in her country’s clash with the South Americans, but sunk a vital basket as Britain came from six points down in the final quarter to clinch a thrilling success in their only fixture at the Olympic Park’s Basketball Arena.

Paralympics GB had suffered crushing defeats at the hands of the Netherlands and Australia to crank up the pressure on their clash with Brazil, who lost their opening game to the Aussies by two points, but they came through a topsy-turvy encounter to put themselves on the brink of the quarter-finals.

Maclean, whose side may still need to get something from their match with Canada at the North Greenwich Arena today (1pm), said: “It was a really bad couple of days with the losses, but I think we’re back on a high

“It was very important to win that game because you have to win one match at least to get into the quarter-finals, so we would have gone into the Canada match really down.

“We would have tried to pick ourselves up, but there would have been a lot of pressure to win that match.

“Now we know we’ve got that win, the pressure is off us a little, but we want to win the next match so we get a better tie in the next round.

“Canada have one really good player who can shoot from anywhere, so we need to stop her.

“If we can do that we will give ourselves a really good chance.”

Both sides had forwards in fine form, with Britain’s Amy Conroy edging out Brazil’s Debora Cristina Guimares da Costa as the match’s top scorer with 18 of GB’s points.

Conroy was the star of the opening quarter, helping Britain into a 9-5 lead, which could have been more had it not been for several missed free throws.

Shooting from the line would prove to be GB’s weakest area as they missed 11 of their 15 shots from the line during the encounter, including two from Maclean, who plays for Sudbury-based Eastern Blue Stars.

Guimares da Costa began to take charge in the second quarter as Brazil moved into the lead for the first time since scoring the first basket of the match, the South Americans’ number 10 sinking an all-important shot with just seven seconds remaining of the opening half.

Although Brazil went 23-19 up, Britain hit back to level, before missing four good chances to take charge of the match with Conroy, Helen Freeman and Laurie Williams (twice) all failing to convert good chances.

Conroy managed to put her side in front, but four consecutive baskets — three at the end of the third quarter, one at the beginning of the fourth — for Brazil seemed to have taken the match away from the home side, backed by vociferous support.

But GB clawed their way back to 35-35 all before two-time St Edmundsbury Sports Personality of the Year Maclean – who had been introduced with four minutes 31 seconds of the third quarter remaining – nailed a shot from a tight angle to edge her team ahead.

It was the sixth time the lead had changed hands, but would be the last as Paralympics GB saw out the final minutes to improve their chances of reaching the quarter-finals.

To do so, Britain must finish in the top four of their five-team pool with today’s clash with Canada their last chance to score points before the knockout stages.

Speaking about her basket, primarily deep-lying guard Maclean said: “That was a bit scary, but it was good.”