Australia have registered their first ever FIBA Asia U16 crown in their event debut following a pull-away 67-91 victory over hosts China in Foshan.
With both sides already having qualified for the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup, Asian gold was on the line. Despite a raucous home crowd, Australia was able to quell the home side’s early advantage to take command across the final three quarters as Australia outscored China, 74-44.
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The ‘Crocs’ were superbly led by Luke Travers’ all-round game, with the versatile 6’4 forward pouring in a game-high 22 points on 9-13 shooting with 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks. Wani Swaka Lo Buluk capped off a brilliant finals run with 21 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists, while Tamuri Wigness exploded with 20 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals.
In the first quarter, the Chinese took full advantage of their superior size, getting the ball into the paint for some easy scores. Shots were just not dropping early for the Crocs, and it was the home side who had opened up a 6 point lead at the first break.
Switching to a zone in the second period worked a treat as Australia nullified the Chinese’s interior dominance, doubling in the post at every opportunity. Forced to start firing from long range, the Chinese were unable to find the bottom of the net as Australia slowly took control of the game, behind the outstanding play of Luke Travers. Travers showcased his versatile talents, blocking shots and coming up with steals at one end, and then finishing at the other from both beyond the arc, and with an authoritative dunk, ensuring his country would enter the main break up by 4.
While the second period belonged to Travers, the third period was all about Wani Swaka Lo Buluk. With China making 5 of their first 7 shots to open the second half, it was Lo Buluk who delivered the blows that had the home side reeling. The 6’6 forward drained two triples in scoring eight straight points for Australia, and with Travers also dominating, it opened up the game for Wigness to tear up the open court.
Australia turned defence into quickfire offense, with Wigness’ speed and ability to push the ball helping extend the margin. Liam Herbert all but put the nail in china’s coffin, coming off the bench for a quickfire 10 points in 6 minutes that included two three-pointers. Playing with poise and control, Australia withstood every challenge to record a convincing win and bring home a first FIBA Asian U16 gold medal.
While Travers, Lo Buluk and Wigness were clearly the standouts for Australia, Luke Jackson (6 points, 11 rebounds) and Joe Capetola (4 points, 7 rebounds) played key roles in ensuring the win.
Australia will now head to the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup as the Asian champions, with the event held in Argentina from 30 June to 6 July. While China will join them, bronze medalists New Zealand and fourth placed Philippines will also make the trip.
3. New Zealand