The Australian U19 Emus suffered a heartbreaking loss to a sharp-shooting Italian side, falling 69-67 in a thrilling effort.
Dejan Vasiljevic looked to be the hero, hitting a huge shot for the Aussies, but it was Italy’s Diego Flaccadori who made the game-winning layup – Australia remaining winless in the tournament.
After a tough loss to Canada just a day earlier, Australia began this game with a renewed sense of urgency. They looked more energetic on both ends of the floor, leading to a lot of good looks at the rim. The introduction of William McDowell-White off the bench added great pace to the floor, with the Queenslander doing a good job pushing the ball in transition.
Italy, however, found their stroke from behind the arc, hitting five 3-pointers to start the game – seemingly diminishing the initial confidence of the Australians. The Italians cooled off by the end of the quarter, with Australia trailing 16-22 as the first quarter buzzer sounded.
Both teams opened the second quarter settling for perimeter jump-shots, with neither team finding their rhythm early. Dejan Vasiljevic and Deng Gak – both of whom were a part of last year’s Austrlaian U17 campaign – managed to get some shots to fall toward the end of the quarter, but it was Italy who finished the quarter on a high note.
Led by star guard Diego Flaccadori, Italy went on an 8-0 run to head into the half with a 37-29 lead. Jack McVeigh proved to be a consistent force throughout the half, heading into the main break with 7 points, while Deng Gak and Jordan Hunter – the young big-men on the squad – had 4 points apiece.
The start of the second half saw Vasiljevic continue to find his stroke, scoring nine quick points to cut Italy’s lead. Italy managed to answer all of Australia’s runs with impressive ball movement and timely perimeter shooting.
Australia’s trap worked to perfection at the end of the third quarter, with McDowell-White and Geremy McKay throwing down big jams as the buzzer sounded – Australia with a 50-48 lead heading into the final period.
The consistent play of McVeigh saw Australia extend their lead to start the fourth quarter but Italy remained hot from beyond the arc, keeping the game close.
Capping off an Emus run, Jack White skied for a huge slam that energised the Australian bench, as well as the crowd in Heraklion.
The excitement was short-lived, however, as Italy managed to get back in the game, thanks to the scoring prowess of Flaccadori. Italy had a 62-61 lead with just over two minutes to go and didn’t look like letting up.
After some back and forth, Australia trailed 64-67 with 30 seconds to go, and the possession. Dejan Vasiljevic – who was the hero during Australia’s FIBA Oceania campaign late last year – stepped up and hit a huge 3-pointer to tie the game.
With 11 seconds left in the game, Flaccadori – who had been Italy’s most composed player throughout the entire matchup – drove left and scored a layup in traffic, all but sealing the game for the Italians.
Jack McVeigh finished the game with 18 points and 6 rebounds for Australia, whilst Dejan Vasiljevic posted 16 points of his own.
Diego Flaccadori – Italy’s hero – finished with a game-high 23 points.
Australia did a much better job controlling the pace in this game, but it was Italy’s 3-point shooting that proved to be the demise of the Emus. Italy shot 12-for-28 from behind the arc while Australia shot just 3-for-13.
Once again, William McDowell-White was a force off the bench, doing a great job controlling the pace of the game. Geremy McKay was also a big factor in this game, despite struggling to score inside the paint. The forward out of Melbourne brought a much-needed aggression to the game, firing the team up with his inspired effort.
Watch a full replay of the game below. The boxscore can be found here.
The Emus will have a day to rest before returning to the court to face Tunisia, tipping off early Wednesday morning at 1:15am (AEST).