In front of one of the loudest basketball crowds in Melbourne in recent memory, Australia's depth ultimately proved too much for the Philippines as their registered a 84-68 victory to secure top place in Group B of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
While the Philippines were able to stick with Australia for the first half, Australia's depth and rotations wore down their opponents to take the ascendancy in the third period. Cameron Gliddon was the leading scorer for the game with 16 points, making 4-6 from beyond the arc to assert a positive influence on the game.
“I just wanted to be aggressive and take the right shots within the system,” Gliddon said. in the post-game press conference. “I was happy they went down."
One could have been forgiven for thinking one was in Manila, with the visitors drawing a near capacity crowd and certainly the clear advantage when it came to the crowd support, with every play and whistle drawing cheers or jeers.
The Philippines took possession on the opening tip, yet their foray into the paint was blocked by Matt Hodgson who sent the shot into the crowd. The inbound pass never eventuated, resulting in a three-second violation and the first turnover of the game. At the other end, Cameron Gliddon found himself open for a baseline drive to open the scoring and ensure Australia grasped the early lead. Not long after, Philippine superstar Andray Blatche landed a big three pointer and was fouled, however he missed the resulting free throw. When he followed up soon after to finish a sweet turnaround jumper to put his country ahead for the first time in the game 12-11, the crowd was sent into a frenzy.
Australia forced a second 5 second violation on the Philippines late in the period. Jesse Wagstaff made the visitors pay by draining a triple. However Roger Pogoy hit a buzzer-beating triple to end the period, locking the scores up at 19-all, with the crowd almost lifting the roof of Margaret Court Arena.
The visitors opened strongly in the second term to take a three-point lead. Free throws by Daniel Kickert after being fouled heavily in the paint had the margin back to one. Blatche was causing the Australian's some trouble in the paint, navigating his way through traffic for a strong drive for the score and foul. The tempo of the game was frenetic, but neither team was able to break away from the other. Blatche came up with a big block, but Mitch Creek was able to swat away one of his own much to the disappointment of the pro-Filipino crowd. However Creek was called for a charge at the other end, and the Filipino's were able to score on as Pick and Roll which allowed them to keep their noses 3 points in front and forcing Lemanis to call a timeout.
Creek and Jason Cadee were trying to lift Australia's defensive intensity. Not long after Kiefer Ravena made a tough jumper to keep his side up by 5, he went down hard and was forced to the sidelines for treatment. Australia took advantage of the short break in play, with Creek finding Nick Kay in the lane for a flush to get it back to 3. They would then thwart an attack at the other end to find Kay open for another lay-up to close back to within 1 resulting in a timeout to the Philippines with Blatche gaining a much-needed rest.
In an increasingly aggressive mood, Creek was taking control of proceedings, he put Australia back in front with a strong drive, and then when Kevin Lisch scored backdoor, the Boomers had taken the lead by 5 at half time.
Things remain tight early in the third period, with Hodgson picking up his third foul as Blatche looked to assert his influence. Japeth Aguilar sparked the crowd back into action with a spectacular put-pack dunk to edge his country to within 3. Yet Australia's defense was lifting, and when Gliddon dialed in from long distance the Boomers were well and truly in control. Things got a little crazy mid-way through the term when Filipino had coach Vincent Reyes was getting a little too animated, receiving a warning and doing a great job of exciting the crowd even more in the process.
Gliddon was catching fire from downtown, and when Lisch finished a 4-point play on a tough leaner in the middle, the Boomers had opened up the largest lead of the game at 9. While June Fajardo would not give up, scoring back-to-back baskets, a dunk by Angus Brandt saw the home side pull away by 14 heading into the final quarter.
Australia's depth and continual substitutions was taking a clear toll on the Filipinos, with Creek and Lisch taking full advantage. When Creek finished on a pretty drive, Australia had opened up a 19 point margin and was threatening to blow it out. Yet the visitors remained resilient, with Matthew Wright draining a triple and Fajardo continuing to toil away in the paint. Yet despite leading by double-digits, the Boomers commitment was never more evident when a host of Australian players were seen diving on the floor for a loose ball, recovered by Creek for a steal, and then followed not long after by Gliddon's 4th three-pointer of the night, with the home side cruising to a 16 point win.
After a slow start, Gliddon caught fire to deliver a game-high 16 points on 4-6 three-pointers, while Brandt added 13 points, Lisch 12 and Creek with a 12 point and 11 rebound double-double. Fajardo was the Philippines best with 15 points, while the next best was Blatche with 8 points and 7 rebounds.
Australia remain unbeaten and on top of Group B, while the Philippines will head back home to tackle Japan on Sunday who were upset by Chinese Taipei overnight. The Boomers will host Chinese Taipei on Sunday at Margaret Court Arena, with a win securing their place into the next round of World Cup qualifiers.