The Australian Boomers picked up where they left off in the final periods of game 1 of the Sino-Australia Challenge Series in Perth by outmuscling China 85-64 in an at times fiery encounter in game 2. Led by Mark Worthington with 14 points in a game that saw five Boomers score in double figures, it was the late game antics that this match may be remembered for.
Things threatened to boil over in the last quarter with Chinese Head Coach Gong Luming picking up a technical foul that saw him ejected from the game after the sixth unsportsmanlike foul of the night was called. However, Luming refused to go after being explained through an interpreter from the Chinese bench that he had been ejected and proceeded to momentarily gesture to his team to walk off the court with still over 2 minutes left to play.
After Luming’s gesture was quickly met by jumps of joy and arm waving in the air by his clearly frustrated Chinese players, cooler heads prevailed and the game was able to wind down to see the Boomers take a 2-0 lead in the 4-game series.
The Boomers started the match with the same aggressive style on both ends of the floor that secured them a victory in Game 1 of the series. Luke Nevill (12 points, 3 rebounds), a standout in that game, started this match by scoring the Boomers first two field goals to see them take an early 11-2 lead midway through the first quarter.
Keeping the Chinese to so few points early on impressed Boomers Coach Andrej Lemanis.
“I was really pleased with our defence. Keeping them to two points in the first five minutes really set the tone”
With intense pressing defense by the Boomers, a sign of things to come emerged late in the first quarter where the Chinese bench was given a technical foul after the Boomers had forced a Chinese backcourt violation. Soon after, the Chinese coaching staff were standing on court motioning to the referee after a Chinese lane violation during a Brock Motum (10 points, 6 rebounds) free throw. Knowing the intensity with which the game had quickly started, the referee looked to ease tensions and maintain diplomacy, restoring order with China returning to their bench.
In a quarter that saw 15 fouls called and China managing just two field goals on 2/11 shooting, the Boomers took to the first break with a 22-9 advantage.
With Worthington maintaining every bit of the aggression he started the series with, he connected on two straight field goals including a 3-pointer on a night that saw both teams struggle from downtown, extending the lead to 31-13 midway through the second quarter, with the Boomers going into the long break leading 36-21.
The second half started with a more free-flowing, end-to-end style of basketball that we have only seen glimpses of so far in this series. However this wouldn’t last long after Perth Wildcats big man Tom Jervis (4 points) and China’s Zhong-Hao Xu become entangled mid-court that would see both benches empty to quickly diffuse the rising tensions on the floor.
Four Chinese free throws later on unsportmanslike fouls called on Jervis and also Motum from the incident would see the visitors close the gap to just nine points in a quarter won by the Chinese 18-15. Through their improved play, they entered the final term within reach of the Boomers trailing at 51-39.
With the Chinese sensing an opportunity to mount a run at the start of the final term, tensions again would boil over after an off-the-ball, backcourt collision between Rhys Martin (13 points) and Chinese guard Zaio-Yu Liu. With Martin being called for a foul that would see Liu fall to the ground holding his throat, Liu would be subbed out of the game but not before gesturing to the Boomers bench that he won’t forget the incident.
Coach Lemanis, clearly concerned at the physical nature the game was taking, could be overheard telling the referees “we are not the instigators of everything”. After four Angus Brandt (4 points) free throws resulting from a further unsportmanslike foul that was called on China, a Hugh Greenwood (7 points) 3-pointer would break the shackles after both sides had started the term trading baskets. The Boomers were then able pull away to a 69-48 lead with half a quarter to play.
It was not long after that Coach Luming would threaten to turn the encounter into a farce by having his players walk off the court. The incident stemmed from an unsportmanslike foul on Xu who earlier had been involved in the incident with Jervis at mid-court. This time Xu could be clearly seen trying to trip Boomers guard Martin from behind as the Australian looked to push the ball towards the basket. With Xu fouling out as a result, a clearly upset Luming would receive the bench’s second technical foul of the night and as a result being ejected.
However after a couple of minutes of deliberation through a translator and Luming refusing to leave the court, the game resumed. The heated encounter wound up with the Boomers emerging 21 point victors, helped largely by shooting 35/44 from the free throw line in a game dogged by fouls, something which China clearly struggled to adjust to.
Li Nan, Chinese Assistant Coach, explained they were trying to adjust to the interpretations that differ to what they are used to back home but were just “trying to play through it”.
The scene now moves to China for the final two games of the series. It will be interesting to see if the smoke has cleared by then after a fiery set of opening games in Perth. With China buoyed by their home crowd and perhaps the Boomers having to do the adjusting on how the games will be called by the referees, the series is primed from for a couple of classic encounters in what is fast becoming a rivalry for years to come.
Game 3 of the Sino-Australia Challenge will be played at Jiangsu Zhenjiang Sports and Exhibition Centre this Friday, 6 June at 7.30pm (9:30pm AEST). The match will be broadcast on ABC2 at 10.30pm AEST nationally (delayed).
Australian Boomers 85 (Worthington 14, Martin 13, Nevill 12, Motum 10)
Team China 64 (Li 15, Ding Yan 10, Gu 9)