Dubai: Coach Mahmut Kemal Okur was a pleased man retaining his long-term dream after Turkey came out 69-65 winners against Morocco to claim the top spot at the 10th Fazza International Wheelchair Basketball Championships that concluded at the Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club late on Thursday.
Last year, Turkey lost in the final of the Wheelchair Basketball World Championships in Toronto, Canada. But this year, Okur wants to go one step forward as he targets gold at the 2018 Wheelchair Basketball World Championships in Hamburg, Germany from August 16-26.
“The hurt of 2017 is still very fresh for my players. We have all set a goal that we want to win the tournament this year,” Okur told Gulf News after receiving the winner’s trophy from Major Dr Saud Faisal Al Rumaithi, Chairman of People of Determination Council at Dubai Police, Dhiban Al Muhairi, General Secretary of UAE Federation of People of Determination and Abdullah Shadad from Dubai Sports Council, among others.
The final was a close affair with Turkey leading 60-55 with exactly two minutes left. But, Rida Maataoui drew level 60-60 with two baskets and a charity shot. However, Emre Bostanoglu scored and a free throw handed over the lead to the Turks 63-60 and just 38.6 seconds left on the clock. It was then that Maataoui’s fling from the centre of the court found the basket and scores were tied 63-all to force an additional five minutes of play. Turkey clamped down on their defence and went on to win 69-65.
“When I witnessed the guts and mental strength shown by my players I really don’t have any reasons to complain. They were all champions out there,” Morocco coach Rafael Ubaldo admitted.
“Finally, this match came down to being decided by our lack of bench strength. We travelled with a squad of just eleven players, and of these the two injured are crucial to the way our team plays,” he added.
With the European Championships scheduled to be held in Italy in September, the Turkish coach could only continue with his compliments. “This group of players is the future of wheelchair basketball for Turkey. Most of them are under-22 and I see many of these players getting promoted into the senior team in the near future,” Okur said.
“We are the defending champions and we want to successfully defend our crown when the tournament is held at the same venue in September,” the coach affirmed.
Final: Turkey bt Morocco 69-65
Third place: South Korea bt Thailand 49-41
Fifth place: South Africa bt Japan 57-47