Australia’s next generation of of promising talent capped a dominant week in Paita, New Caledonia to sweep through the FIBA Under 17 Championships undefeated en route to defending their gold medals won in 2017 against trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand.
The gap between Australia and the rest of their Oceania rivals may seem large, but it has been narrowed in the past 2 years if the results from 2017 are compared where both teams from Down Under won with average winning margins of more than 100 points.
The Sapphires amassed 109.8 points, 55.6 rebounds and 18 steals per game in dominating the event, winning their games by an average of 88.4 points across their five games.
Their two closes games came against New Zealand, with their group-stage game the closest outing the Sapphires experienced during their campaign, winning by 26 points. In the final, they would again lock horns with their traditional Oceania rivals, blowing out the game across the second and third period in which they outscored New Zealand 50-20, eventually prevailing 88-41 to take the title.
For Australia, Jade Melbourne unleashed 21 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals in the final, supported ably by Gemma Potter’s 15 points and 6 rebounds, and Kelsey Rees’ 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Australia forced New Zealand into committing 30 turnovers in the final, was also harassing them into just 24.6 per cent shooting from the field.
The Sapphires ended the tournament with an incredible seven players averaging double-digit scoring (eight if you include Millie Prior’s 9.8ppg), led by Potter’s 15.4 points per game. Their dominance was highlighted by defence, with the Sapphires allowing the opposition to average just 25.4 points. This was highlight by lop-sided results against Guam (144-9), Samoa (99-8) and a semi-final win against Tahiti (139-16) [Sapphires Results].
Three Sapphires were named to the All-Star Five, with Potter, Rees and Kate Deeble featuring, with Tahiti’s Mahinea Tavanae and New Zealand’s Arielle Williams rounding out the tournament standouts.
The tournament victory secured Australia’s place at the 2020 FIBA Under 18 Women’s Asian Championship, with runner-up New Zealand also booking their place alongside the Sapphires.
In almost identical fashion to their Sapphires counterpart, the Crocs romped to the 2019 FIBA Under 17 Oceania Championship, accounting for New Zealand in the final to qualify for the 2020 FIBA Under 18 Asia event.
The closest anyone got to the Crocs was New Zealand in the group stage, where Australia was made to work for a 23 point win. In the final, the Aussies made sure they would not give the New Zealander’s any chance, racing to an 11 point opening term lead, and winning all four quarters to win convincingly 85-56.
Josh Giddey capped off a brilliant tournament with an MVP-like performance in the final. Shooting 9 of 11 from the field, he amassed a game-high 25 points with 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 6 steals. Tamuri Wigness and Biwali Bayles both added 12 point, while Taran Armstrong and Blake Jones also chimed in with 11 points each.
Such was Australia’s dominance of the event, they featured a staggering nine players who averaged 9 points or more, led by Giddey’s 16.4 points and Blake Jones’ 15.4 points per game. The Crocs delivered an amazing 110.8 points per game, with an average winning margin of 66.4 points to dominate the event [Crocs Results].
Giddey was joined by Wigness and Paul Tsapatolis in the All-Star Five, along with New Zealand’s Robbie Coman and Samoa’s Egon Keil.
The dual wins by Australia have ensured that the Emus can look to defend their 2018 FIBA Under 18 Asia title next year, while the Gems take aim at improving on their bronze medal from last year’s event.