Algeria secured their place at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games after reclaiming their African title from North African rivals Morocco in the 2020 Afro Paralympic Qualifiers final in Johannesburg on Saturday (7th March).

Algeria and Morocco were not only playing for the African title, but also for the final spot in the men’s wheelchair basketball competition at this year’s Paralympic Games.

The teams had met earlier in the competition and had to go to double overtime to decide a winner on that occasion, so we were braced for another close encounter in the final.

Both teams understandably started nervously with the enormity of the game, but it was Morocco who held a three-point advantage at the end of first quarter, 11-8. They extended that to five points at the start of the second, but then three quick offensive fouls in a row from them let Algeria back into the game and take the lead. The lead exchanged hands six times in the second, but Samir Ladjadjat’s ten points in the quarter put Algeria up by three at half-time, 24-21.

Zouhair Challat of Morocco challenges Omar Zidi of Algeria during the 2020 IWBF Afro Paralympic Qualifiers Final match between Algeria and Morocco on the 07 March 2020 at Mandeville Sports Centre, Johannesburg Pic Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

The high intensity of the game continued in the third as both teams settled down and found their scoring flow a little easier. In a high scoring quarter, Morocco tied the game and went up by five, but an 11-0 run from Algeria swung the game back in their favour again as they won it 20-17, to take a 44-38 lead going into the last period.

Morocco seemed too eager to chase the game at the start of the fourth and took some early three-point shots which didn’t drop, enabling Algeria, through Guedoun and Ayache, to push their advantage out to fifteen points with six minutes to go. This forced a change in line-up from Morocco’s coach which instigated a comeback as Oulini and Moukhariq both drained three’s as they went on an 8-2 run themselves. Moukhariq then picked up his fifth foul and had to be replaced, but the momentum was with Morocco, as they brought the score to within five with two minutes left on the clock. In a frantic last two minutes, a couple of early turnovers from Morocco meant Algeria could hold off the charge of their opponents and see the game out, 63-54, claiming the gold medal and the ticket to Tokyo.

Algeria’s Samir Ladjadjat made a vital contribution for his team, scoring a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds, being named Sasol Player of the Match.

Morocco’s Rida Maataoui continued his consistent form of the tournament, with his own double-double of 21 points and 16 rebounds.

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