The Australian Boomers have gone down 95-90 in a tightly contested Game 4 of the Sino-Australia Challenge series in China with the series finishing tied at 2 games apiece in the best-of-4 series.
The Boomers started the match with a high intensity on the offensive end, which saw them take an early 10-6 lead midway through the first quarter on the back of two baskets by Brock Motum. There was a strong focus early to go inside evident by not only Motum, who led the Boomers on the night with 19 points (7-8 FG) but with Lucas Walker, Luke Nevill (14 points) and Angus Brandt all scoring in the first period.
This intensity however, saw the Boomers undone at times with a handful of offensive fouls called. Seven points in the last minute that began with a Mark Worthington 3-pointer, saw the Boomers maintain their lead 21-17 at the end of the first term.
An early Clint Steindl 3-pointer and back to back field goals by Ben Madgen (11 points) had the Boomers gelling and still up by four at 31-27. However, Lucas Walker would find himself in early foul trouble and take an early seat on the bench while China connected on six 3-pointers in the first half to just the Boomers’ two. A late second quarter 3-pointer by China would see them enjoy what would be the largest lead of the match at 46-39. On a night when both teams were happy to shoot early in their offensive sets, it would be China’s free throws (16-25 in the first half) compared to Australia’s (9-13) that would help them take the quarter 33-21 and go into the long break in the lead 48-43.
The foul shot discrepancy would not subside in the second half, as the Boomers would find themselves continually called for reach-in fouls and send China to the line early in the third quarter. However, the Boomers continued to maintain their focus and while further questionable calls against the Australians saw the Chinese at the free throw line multiple times near the end of the quarter, a late push on offense with a Cameron Gliddon 3-pointer on the back of an Angus Brandt back down and left hook shot saw Australia enjoy a 67-66 lead with one term to play.
On a night where it was difficult for either team to pull away for any length of time, the last quarter was a tense affair, which is indicative of how this series has at times been played. An early quarter huge slam down the lane by Nevill from a Motum assist kept things tight at 75-all, however China would respond immediately from downtown to quickly regain the edge.
Costly turnovers down the stretch that saw the Boomers lose the ascendency, one of which turned into a quick breakaway dunk and an 82-77 lead to China with half a quarter to play. Another Gliddon 3-pointer and an aggressive drive and left-handed dunk by Motum would see the match poised at 90-88 with just 23 seconds left, however China continued to have the late answers on this night, responding with another from downtown by Ziao-Yu Liu and ultimately running out winners 95-90.
Although Boomers Head Coach Andrej Lemanis would be disappointed with 19 turnovers for the evening, as many of them were late in the game, the team could be proud of their effort in a match that saw China attempt an incredible 48 free throws to the Boomers’ 20. If China could have connected at a better rate from the line –having only connected on 30 of their attempts– they could have finished the series quite easily with a double-digit victory.
A bright spark for the night was undoubtedly Brock Motum, who would also be seen as the Boomers standout for the series, with Luke Nevill not far behind. Mark Worthington showed glimpses of previous year’s national team form, however a lack of consistency would be a concern for Lemanis while Lucas Walker, although quiet tonight compared to the first three games of the series, played every minute across the four games with the passion of someone extremely proud to represent his country.
These standouts will now be keeping a close eye to see if their name is called for the next Boomers training camp where most, if not all, of Australia’s overseas players will join the fold. Considering the great depth at the forward and center positions for the players coming into camp, these standouts of the last fortnight will need to keep every bit of the intensity and grit they have shown during this Sino-Australia Challenge Series if they are to figure in calculations for the final roster to compete at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain later this year.
China 95 (Sun 15, Cao 13)
Australia 90 (Motum 19, Nevill 14, Madgen 11) at Liyang Tianmuhu Arena, China.