Australia have muscled past Japan 88-52 at the 2018 FIBA Under-18 Asian Championships to advance to the semi-finals against the Philippines, but more importantly qualify for the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup.
The Emus utilised their superior size and firepower in the paint, out-rebounding Japan 58-31 while also outscoring them 64-16 inside the key. After powering Australia to victory against New Zealand, the twin towers of Kyle Bowen and Samson Froling again were the catalysts behind the big win. The duo combined for 34 points on a remarkable 17-19 shooting with 24 rebounds and 7 assists.
In advancing to the semi-finals, Australia enters an intriguing contest against the Philippines, a country in which Australia was embroiled in a now infamous brawl in their last 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian qualifier in Manila.
In what proved to be their toughest contest yet, the Emus quickly realised that Japan would be their tough opponent yet, as their Asian rivals opened up a quick 7-4 lead on the back of a Keijiro Mitani triple. Kody Stattmann immediately responded with a three-pointer of his own to tie up the game, and when Keli Leaupepe made back-to-back buckets, the Emus took the lead 13-9, and would never trail again. With Tamuri Wigness and Callum Dalton hitting from beyond the arc to close out the quarter, the Aussies had opened up a 10 point quarter time lead.
Froling asserted himself on the game to open the second period, swatting away a shot at one end before making a strong drive at the other. Along with Leaupepe, the Emus were controlling the paint, and when Bowen returned to the floor, it only stepped up another rung. Bowen scored inside on a second chance opportunity, before moments later finishing an alley-oop pass from Froling. With both teams misfiring from deep, the Emus ability to regularly score on the interior that saw them extend the lead to 15 points at half time.
Neither team was able to make any inroads early in the third term, with the scoring drying up at both ends, that was until Froling stepped up yet again. He scored onside before slamming one home a possession later, and then sent a Japanese shot attempt into the crowd on the next play. He then scored his 6th straight points after being fed by Wigness as he helped Australia restore their momentum as they charged to a 63-41 lead at three-quarter time.
Japan attempted a late comeback when Keisei Tominaga drained back-to-back treys inside the first minute to close the margin to 17, yet that would be as close as they got as the Emus went on a 7-0 run capped by a Tyler Robertson triple to snuff out any hopes of a final quarter upset. Across the final 5 minutes, Japan was unable to score as the Australia finished off their opponents, blowing out the final margin to 36 points.
Best for Australia was Bowen who logged a game-high 22 points (11-12 FG) and 13 rebounds, combining well with Froling who added 12 points (6-7 FG), 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocked shots. Five other Emus scored 8 points or more, with Australia's dominance in the paint seeing them shoot at an incredible 71% from the field while restricting Japan to just 28%. Japan committed just 7 turnovers while the Emus registered 18, and it is an area that head coach Darren Perry will be keen to remedy ahead of their semi-final against the Philippines.
The Philippines will be a totally different contest and with emotions set to be running high following the events of just over a month ago. The game which will be live streamed on The Pick and Roll Facebook page will tip-off at 8:45pm AEST on Friday, 10 August. It is sure to be a contest one will not want to miss, with the winner advancing to the championship game to take on either China or New Zealand on Saturday.
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 9 August: Quarter-Finals: Australia defeated Japan 88-52 10 August: Semi-Finals: Australia vs Philippines at 8:45pm 11 August: Finals