It took 5 extra minutes but Australia managed to start their FIBA U17 World Championship campaign with a win – defeating Japan 97-84.
Dejan Vasiljevic led all scorers with 23 pts & 11 rbs while Isaac Humphries added an impressive 16 pts, 14 rbs (13 OFF) & 6 blks as Australia edged Japan 97-84 in an overtime thriller.
The Australian U17 Men’s squad, nicknamed the ‘Goannas’, had a dream start to the fixture – with seemingly everything going their way in the opening quarter. Vasiljevic exploded for 14 pts & 6 rbs as Australia had a comfortable 27-14 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.
Australia managed to hold on to a 41-31 lead heading into the half – Vasiljevic remaining the top scorer with 14 pts while fellow Victoria Metro guard Tom Wilson added 9 pts.
The 2nd half was a completely different story. Japan managed to get the long ball to fall while Australia seemed to be settling for perimeter jumpers – a Hayato Maki 3-pointer giving Japan their first lead since early in the 1st quarter. The Goannas managed to put together a little run to end the quarter, capped off by a Humphries tip-in at the buzzer – Australia leading 60-56 heading into the 4th quarter.
The game went back and forth and neither team could pull away. Australia seemingly had the win in the bag until Japan’s Rui Hachimura, who finished with 22pts & 9 rbs, hit a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.
Australia managed to run away with it in overtime – Vasiljevic and Humphries taking over in the final period – and the Australian coaching staff walking away with a lot to think about.
Tom Wilson, who has been named the captain of this squad, had 12 pts & 5 rbs while Kouat Noi added 17 pts, 9 rbs & 3 stls.
A worrying stat for Australia was their poor assist-to-turnover ratio – dishing out just 8 assists while turning the ball over 17 times. An increased effort on the defensive end is also something that will need addressing after allowing a subpar Japan side to shoot 42% from beyond the arc.
Although there is a lot to learn from this performance, Australia showed signs of a team with the potential of medaling. Their imposing inside presence along with dynamic guard play – as well as some great contributions off the bench from Abi Akintola, Kyle Clark and Jack White – are what will help this squad compete for the majority of this tournament.
Australia will face France at 10:30pm (AEST) on Saturday night.
Note: We were unfortunate that ‘technical difficulties’ on the live-stream marred the game for a lot of viewers. FIBA has assured us that this won’t happen again and that the problem has been rectified for future games. Visit FIBA’s YouTube channel for a replay.