Oceania rivals Australia and New Zealand will play off for gold in the final of the 2018 FIBA Under-18 Asian Championships following the Emus convincing 77-44 victory over the Philippines in Bangkok, Thailand.
In the first game between the two countries at any level following the now infamous brawl in Manila in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, there were so signs of any on court animosity between either side. The Emus would go in to assert themselves on an outclassed Filipino side who bravely made the Australians works for every basket. In fact it was Australia's lowest score of the tournament to date, despite the Emus being able to restrict their rivals to just 44 points.
As they have demonstrated all tournament, it was the Australian class and depth that shone through, with nine players scoring 7 or points, once again led by tournament MVP contender Samson Froling. The Queenslander delivered a game-high 12 points (5-9 FG) with 7 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 blocked shots.
Isaiah Lee | Credit: FIBA
Very little separated either team in the opening period. Kyle Bowen or Froling were involved in almost every possession early, with Bowen dunking at one end and the latter rejecting a shot at the other as the Emus opened up an 8-3 lead. After a timeout, the Philippines responded, scoring on back-to-back lay ups. When Sean Ildefonso hit one of two from the line, the scores were locked up at 8-all. Both teams were misfiring from deep, with the increased pressure taking its toll. Scores by Callum Dalton and then Josh Gatbel kept Australia in front, ensuring their country took just a 2 point lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter belonged to Australia. Froling converted a three-point play to open, before draining a big triple from the top at the key for 6 straight points. He then swatted away another shot at the other the very next play, eventually resulting in a Kody Stattmann lay up that had quickly pushed the margin out to 10 points. Scoring dried up over the next couple of minutes, but Tyler Robertson go things moving again with pull up jump shot. Dalton kept the momentum going with two consecutive three-pointers from the left corner as the Emus threatened to blow out the game courtesy of a 20-4 run. Running through his bench, Darren Perry continued to rotate players and it was paying dividends, with the Emus opening up a big 24 point lead at half time, outscoring their opponents 30-8 for the term.
Australia opened strongly in the third, but could not buy a basket in the opening minute - that was until Froling strolled through the middle for a monster slam! A trey to Robertson on the wing for their next score forced the Philippines to call a timeout to try to halt the Aussie scoring. Aiden Krause and Isaiah Lee were doing a great job on slowing the Filipino back court, and when a Gatbel corner three went down, the margin had blown out to 34 points with the Emus in total control.
With the game all but over, the teams traded baskets in the final term. Froling capped off a great defensive play by the Aussies with another big block to remind everyone of his presence. The defensive intensity from the Emus never waned, with Krause and Wigness making shots from the line, with the Australians eventually running out 34 point victors.
Dominating the paint once again, the Emus outscored the Philippines 54-24 inside and winning the rebound count 59-47. Australia shot 49% from the field while restricting their opponents to just 30%.
While Froling led all scorers, Stattmann and Dalton both provided 10 points and 7 rebounds each, while Bowen added 8 points and 8 rebounds.
Australia next tackle familiar rivals New Zealand in the final for whom they breezed past 111-62 in the group stage.
New Zealand had to battle their way through to the final the hard way, qualifying for the quarter-finals by easily accounting for India, before running into reigning champion Iran. Behind 26 points and 14 rebounds from James Moors, New Zealand moved past Iran by 15 points, before a 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists triple-double from Flynn Cameron managed to help them sneak past China 87-82 in their semi-final.
Both sides have already qualified for the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup, with one of the Oceania rivals set to steal the Under-18 Asian crown for a first time in their event debuts. The final tips off at 6:45pm AEST, and will once again be streamed live to The Pick and Roll Facebook page.
Emus Schedule (all times AEST)
5 August: Australia defeated Thailand 119-44 6 August: Australia defeated Bahrain 107-42 7 August: Australia defeated New Zealand 111-62 9 August: Quarter-Finals: Australia defeated Japan 88-52 10 August: Semi-Finals: Australia defeated Philippines 77-43 11 August: Gold Medal: Australia vs New Zealand at 6:45pm AEST