Australia will play off for 5th place after a blistering fourth quarter saw them overwhelm Croatia 71-54 at the 2018 FIBA Under-17 World Cup for men in Argentina.
Little had separated either side for the first three-quarters of the game, yet the Crocs broke open in the final period to outscore Croatia 25-8 and pull away to a convincing 17 point victory. Led by Hunter Clarke's 20 points that included 4 three-pointers, Australia's smothering defence was turned into offense as they seek to finish the tournament off on a high by securing 5th position.
In a low-scoring first quarter, it was Australia that managed to edge ahead by 4 at the first break. Neither side was able to trouble the scoreboard early, and it was not until almost the half-way mark of the quarter before Croatia scored the first points of the game via a triple to Ivan Gulin. Kobe Williamson finally put the Australian's on the board with jump shot courtesy of a Josh Bannan assist. After Croatia had opened up a 5 point lead, it was Wani Swaka Lo Buluk who stepped up to dial long distance and get the Crocs offense moving. Australia finished the term on a 7-0 run that included Clarke's first trey and capped by a Lo Buluk dunk just before the end of the period as the Crocs took a 4 point lead.
Tamuri Wigness found a wide open Luke Travers for a triple to open the second period to extend the run to 10 straight unanswered points. Luke Jackson started hitting shots, as the Aussies pushed their lead out to 10 and threatening to break open the game. Gulin then scored 6 of the last 8 points for the half, including 2 three-pointers, as Croatia closed the margin to 26-22 at half time.
Early points to Williamson and Travers saw the Aussies pull away yet again by 8 points, yet Croatia would not go away. Three-pointers to Matej Rudan and Roko Gizdavcic fired up their offense and ultimately tied up the scores. Rudan was on fire, converting a three-point play not long after to take the lead for Croatia, before draining two more from beyond the arc as the Croatian's looked to take control with a 4 point advantage. Australia responded through triples to Bannan and then Clarke. Capetola then scored late, ensuring the scores were locked at 46-all heading into the final break.
Joel Capetola | Credit: FIBA
Clarke hit a three early, and it as the Australian's who started to slowly work their way into a handy lead. Joel Capetola's hustle was helping turn defence into offense, as the Crocs totally shut down their opponents. He was involved in everything in the last term as Australia overwhelmed Croatia to run out convincing 17 point winners.
While Clarke had his best scoring output of the tournament, Jackson was again prominent. The forward added 10 points with 15 rebounds, with Wigness contributing 10 points and 2 steals, and Williamson 11 points and 6 rebounds. For Croatia, Mudan finished with an equal game-high 20 points that included 6 three-pointers and 5 assists, while Gulin added 13 points.
Australia dominated the rebound count 45-31 and scored 44 points to 18 inside the paint.
Australia moves on to playoff for 5th position and will take on Turkey in a rematch of their Group A encounter. In that game, turnovers hurt the Australians as they fell short by just 2 points. The Crocs led by as many as 14 points, but committed 24 turnovers for the game as their opponents took full advantage scoring 23 points from those chances. Atakan Erdek, Mustafa Kurtuldum and Ömer Kücük’s are the three players that caused most of the damage when they last faced, with the Aussies set to try to curtail their influence in their final contest of the World Cup which will be played at 2:00am AEST on Sunday morning.
Fox Sports Australia have secured the exclusive broadcast rights for the quarterfinal stage onward. Thanks for supporting our live streaming coverage on our Facebook page as called by Jon Guarna and Damian Arsenis.
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: Australia defeated Mali 74-65 7 July: Quarter-Finals: Australia lost to Canada 70-74 8 July: Playoff for 5-8: Australia defeated Croatia 71-54 9 July: Final Position Playoffs 5-6: Australia vs Turkey, 2:00am AEST