Wheelchair Basketball: Great Britain defeats Israel in Beijing warm-up

Great Britain's national wheelchair basketball team wrapped up a three-day stint in Israel with a grueling match against Israel at Ramat Rachel's Beit HaLohem. The match came at the end of three days of cooperative training camps. Their game, the first time Great Britain has ever played in Israel, ultimately proved victorious for Britain, who won 81-73, though educational for both. Game MVP and Britain's leading scorer, forward Terry Bywater, truly appreciated his freshman visit to Israel, saying, "they really took good care of us here." The two teams went face-to-face at the European Championship in August, when Israel qualified for the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing after finishing fourth. Though Israel's defense could not shut down Bywater and the dynamic Britain offense, Israel did hold onto a close margin and held the 2004 Paralympic bronze-winning Brits to a close 8-point margin. Israel was not discouraged by the loss. "This was a very positive experience," said Israel's head coach Arik Pinto. "When they go back, they will tell others and next time many teams will want to come play in Israel." Great Britain's arrival marks the first time that any national team from abroad has come to Israel; Pinto believes that their visit will initiate a wave of other teams playing in Israel who will respect both the team and their country. "Now they know we can play as equals, and that they don't have to be afraid of this place," Pinto said. "It's always great to play a team better than you are," said Israeli power forward Allon Dor-Onn. "You recognize both your strengths and weaknesses, and it's good for both of you." The three-day training camp was also the first time in several months that Israel has been able to practice as an entire team. Five of their players currently play abroad, four in Italy and one in the United States. Pinto called the training opportunity "the first step to Beijing" and regrouping the team. Israel had a particular interest in hosting and playing Great Britain since the two teams will face off again when they compete in the same group in Beijing. Shawn Rodgers contributed to this report.