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Garlepp's heroics steal FIBA 3x3 Asian gold for Australia
Australia have won two medals at the 2018 FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup in Shenzhen, China, with the men earning a first ever gold medal after defeating Mongolia in overtime to steal the win in miraculous fashion, while the women secured bronze after going down to New Zealand in their semifinal.
Tom Garlepp drained a game-winning shot from beyond the arc in overtime to steal the gold medal away from Mongolia in a miraculous finish while gaining revenge for their semifinal defeat in 2017. The Aussie women suffered a devastating defeat in their semifinal against New Zealand, giving up a a big lead before a dagger two-pointer extinguished their hopes of defending their gold medal from a year earlier.
Both sides had to win their way into the main draw which they did so comfortably, with the men improving on their bronze medal from 2017, while the women had to settle for bronze after winning gold last year.
After navigating their way through 5 straight games to qualify for the main draw with comfortable wins against Guam, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Iran and Samoa, Australia were grouped with Kazakhstan and New Zealand for a chance to qualify for the quarterfinals.
The tournament number 11 seeded Australian's overwhelmed the number 4 seeded Kazakhstan 22-8 before their Trans-Tasman battle against arch-rivals New Zealand. Against their Oceania rivals, Kiwi Karl Noyer did his best to prevent and Australian win, yet the poise of Tom Wright ensued his country would prevail 19-14 to qualify for the quarterfinals undefeated and book a date with South Korea.
South Korea proved no match for the Australian's physicality and hot-shooting, with the men from down under ending the game early at 21-9. Number 3 seed Japan proved a tougher test in the semifinal, with Australia coming from behind to win 18-16 in a thriller thanks to a dagger two-ball from Garlepp at the death.
In the final against Mongolia, Australia opened up an early 5 point lead thanks to some tough interior defense and scoring through Garlepp and Wright.
Mongolia tied the game up at 14-all with less than 50 seconds to play. Odigie made ta basket and was fouled, but missed the free throw. Australia and Mongolia both missed chances to win the game in regulation before Steel fouled the 2017 MVP Dulguun Enkhbat, sending him to the line for two free throws as Australia were over the foul limit. Amazingly he missed both, resulting in the need for overtime where the first team to score two points wins.
Scoring the first basket in overtime, Mongolia had a chance to win it on two straight possessions. However they came up empty each time. On the following possession, the closely guarded Tom Garlepp launched a shot from beyond the arc on the wing for the win. It sailed through with nothing but net, for a stunning Australian win!
"We kind of controlled it for the most but, but their are such a great team," said Garlepp immediately after securing the win for his country. "I probably didn't have the best shot selection, but I just pulled it and had a crack."
Australia went through the tournament undefeated, winning an incredible 10 straight games en-route to winning gold. Garlepp would go on to be named tournament MVP after draining two straight game-winners in the semifinal against Japan and again against Mongolia to win the championship.
Like the men, the Australian women had to qualify for the main draw and did so easily with wins against Thailand, Sri Lanka and Samoa. As the number 12 seed, the Aussies were grouped with number 5 seed Japan and 6 seed Iran. Australia manged to get past Japan 20-14 in a their first tough battle of the tournament, while Iran were easily swept aside 22-3 to ensure Australia progressed to the quarterfinals unbeaten.
Australia dismantled Indonesia 21-3 and ended the game early, setting up a date with Oceania foes New Zealand for a place in the gold medal game. through the quality play of Bec Cole and Carlie Smith, the Aussies opened up a solid lead and looked set to book a berth in the final. Yet Micaela Cocks and her New Zealand side had other ideas. The Kiwi's stormed home as turnovers and poor shot selection cost the Aussies dearly, with New Zealand stealing the win 20-18 in a frantic finish.
Determined not to leave without a medal, Australia took on Japan for the second time in the event in the playoff for bronze. Both sides were off-target early as the defenses reigned supreme for both sides. However through Keely Froling and her size advantage, the Australian's pulled away in the second half to register a convincing 17-5 win to take home bronze.
Cole was rewarded for an outstanding tournament by being named to the Women's Team of the Tournament.
Australia has now enjoyed success on the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup stage for the last two years, and with 3×3 basketball now included as an Olympic sport for Tokyo 2020, the importance of events like these has never been greater for Basketball Australia. With the NBL's 3x3 Hustle joining the established CLB3x3 events on the Australian 3x3 calendar, Australia is now on the verge of realising its potential to become the dominant force in the shorter from of the game across the Asian region.