Australia defeated the previously unbeaten Puerto Rico 68-66 to improve to a 2-1 record and advance to the Round of 16 at the 2018 FIBA Under-17 World Cup for men in Argentina.
In a thrilling final minute, the Crocs broke a deadlock with 3.5 seconds to play, with Luke Travers scoring on a lay-up before Australia prevented a last gasp effort on goal by the Puerto Rican’s in the dying seconds to secure the win. It was the Australian’s third straight game which was decided by 2 points, with the Crocs finishing in a tie on top of the Group A standings with Puerto Rico and Turkey, with all three teams boasting a 2-1 record.
According to the official FIBA event page at the time of publishing, Australia has finished second in Group A behind Puerto Rico and will play the winner of the Group B between Mali and China, with the winner of that game finishing in 3rd position in their group.
While Travers, who finished with 15 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals, was the hero at the end, it was Luke Jackson who was the pillar of strength for the Crocs once again. The 6’6 forward collected his third double-double of the tournament in posting 14 points, 15 rebounds and 2 steals to pave the way for victory.
In many ways it was remarkable that the Crocs managed to win at all, as they turned the ball over a staggering 29 times for the game — most of them unforced — including 18 in the first half alone. Yet Australia’s defence remained rock solid, forcing their opponents into 39% shooting from the field while managing an impressive 59% from the field themselves.
Australia opened the game strongly, running out to a 12-5 early lead following a Luke Travers steal and breakaway dunk. Australia’s defence was solid, and was not enabling Puerto Rico any easy looks in the half court. Unforced turnovers however enabled the Puerto Rican’s to stay in touch, Jermaine Perez and Victor Rolon taking full advantage of the opportunities handed to them, closing the margin to 4 points at quarter time.
A Jay Rantall triple from the corner got the scoring going to open the second stanza. Wigness scored inside soon after too, and when Rantall drained another from deep, the Crocs lead had suddenly become 10. Unforced turnovers were allowing Puerto Rico every opportunity to stay in touch, although the Aussie defence was holding up very well and forcing a number of missed shots. Despite timeouts by head coach Justin Schueller, the Crocs continued to turn the ball over, racking up an astonishing 18 first half turnovers. Their opponents started to find the bottom of the net, and closed to within 3 points at half time despite having trailed by as many as 11 during the term.
Scoring the first 5 points of the third quarter through a lay-up to Wani Swaka Lo Buluk and and triple from Luke Jackson, Australia pulled away yet again by 8. Turnovers yet again allowed their opponents back into the contest, with free throws to Perez getting his side back within 2. Travers was doing his best to keep the Aussies in the lead with another steal and dunk, but his side went cold and it was Puerto Rico who wrestled control of the game. Rolon and Perez continued to fire, before Andre Rodriguez scored late to ensure it was their country in front by 3 at the final break.
Capetola stepped up in the final period, draining a much-needed three-pointer to keep the Aussies in touch early. He fed Jackson for the three-point play not long after, to take back the lead 59-58 and from that point on it was anyone’s game. Turnovers were now plaguing both sides and it became a battle of attrition.
It was Capetola that make 1-2 from the free throw line with 1:55 to play to lock the scores up again at 66-all. Each side had a chance to take the lead; with Perez and Rodriguez turning it over for Puerto Rico, while Travers missed a golden opportunity at the charity stripe when he came up empty on both shots. It would come down to the last 13 seconds when Australia called timeout with possession in their front court and the scores tied. The ball found its way into Travers’ hands and he scored with just 3.5 seconds left to put his country in the box seat. Puerto Rico advanced the ball after a timeout, but Tory Antonio’s 2-point attempt was thwarted and Jackson came down with his 15th rebound of the game to ensure the win.
Travers and Jackson were the only Australians to score in double-figures, with Wigness adding 9 points with 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals, and Capetola chiming in with 8 points each. For Puerto Rico, Perez led all scorers with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals, with Rolon finishing on 17 points.
All teams from the group stage progress to the Round of 16. Group A teams play off against Group B sides which include USA, Serbia, China and Mali in the Round of 16, with first place playing fourth, and second taking on third.
Australia’s Round of 16 game will once again be streamed live to The Pick and Roll’s Facebook page with commentary provided by Jon Guarna and Damian Arsenis. stay tuned to The Pick and Roll’s social media channels for confirmation of the time of their game to be played on Thursday morning Australian time.
The Pick and Roll will be streaming every Australian game LIVE thanks to FIBA with commentary provided by ‘the voice of the QBL’ Jon Guarna who will be joined by Damian Arsenis via Facebook.
1 July: Australia defeated Dominican Republic 73-71
2 July: Australia lost to Turkey 79-81
4 July: Australia defeated Puerto Rico 68-66
5 July: Round of 16:
7 July: Quarter-Finals
8 July: Semi-Finals
9 July: Medal Games