CLB3X3 foundation club University of Sunshine Coast Rip3x3 have secured the first big victory of the Australian 3X3 summer season for 2018/19 by taking down iAthletic in the CLB3X3 season launch in Melbourne.
Played under the Monash Freeway next to the DFO South Wharf retail precinct, some of Australia's best exponents of the shorter form of the game took part in what proved to be one of the closest Elite 3X3 events ever held in Australia across the men's and women's divisions on a glorious spring day.
2018 Champions Melbourne | Credit: Lauri Jean Photography
No team went undefeated in the men's competition such was the level of talent and fierce competition on display. The early favourites were iAthletic who boasted the current Australian number 1 and 3 ranked players in Andrew Steel and Tom Wright, who were joined by former NBL star Rhys Carter and big-man Jonathan Cooke. Having gained experience on the world stage through their success at the FIBA3X3 Asia Cup and on the World Tour this year, they played with a target on their backs all day.
As many expected, iAthletic managed to navigate round-robin play to advance to the semi-finals, albeit not without a scare or two. The Hobart Devils, Sydney Supersonics and Melbourne Magic all pushed iAthletic to the limit, but iAthletic's experience shone through in Group A as they advanced to the semi's. Melbourne joined them despite suiting up just 3 players, with Big V stars Corey Standerfer, Matt Fennell and Liam Norton forming a terrific trio, they advanced with just a solitary loss against iAthletic.
Group B was arguably the tougher of the two, with no team going through the preliminaries unscathed. CLB3X3 foundation clubs USC Rip3x3 and Southern Bobcats looked ominous. Yet Ray Turner's Bendigo Braves would upset the Eric McAlister and Lance Hurdle led Rip, while the Bobcats stars of Rob Linton, Lucas Barker, Liam McInerney and Matt O'Hea accounted for Bendigo in return.
In what ultimately proved to be the pivotal game of the day, the Rip came from behind to defeated the Bobcats in a thriller in their final group stage outing, ensuring they would advance to the semi's. With the scores locked up at 11-all, the Rip had final possession in the dying seconds. SEABL star Kris Blicavs hit McAlister with a brilliant dime for the buzzer-beating dunk to have the crowd on their feet.
South Australian side Can't Touch This then upset Bendigo by 1 in yet another close contest, eliminating the Braves from finals contention despite the outstanding play of Turner all day. The upset ensured both the Rip and Bobcats advanced to the semi-finals from Group B.
Buoyed by their last-gasp win against the Bobcats, the Rip stepped up another level in their semi. Continuing the theme of the day, the game would go right down to the wire. McAlister led the Rip to victory despite big plays from Melbourne's Fennell and Standerfer, who ultimately just ran out of legs after playing with just 3 players all day.
iAthletic were made to work overtime in a defensively oriented battle against a short-handed Bobcats in their semi. The Bobcats were missing Linton who had gone down with an ankle injury earlier, and with Carter stepping up with some big plays in support of Wright and Steel, they went on to book their ticket to the final against the Rip.
In the final, the Rip jumped out to a 4-0 start and were successful in preventing iAthletic from scoring. It was not until the half-way mark of the final until Steel finally put his team on the scoreboard, and then they started to click into gear. they would close the margin to within 1 point. Hurdle and McAlister then came up with three consecutive big plays that ultimately proved the difference. Hurdle drained a big two on the left-wing after Steel scored on an uncontested lay-up. And just when it looked like Wright would score inside, McAlister came from the weak side for a massive blocked shot. Then it was hurdle again, this time on the right-wing, who would hit another two-pointer to all but seal victory for the Rip in the first big win for the new CLB3X3 foundation club.
While there was no MVP or all-tournament team named, there was no shortage of stars who excelled across the event. Melbourne's Corey Standerfer was a clear standout and would have been a worthy MVP, while Bobcats star Lucas Barker, Bendigo's Ray Turner and iAthletic's Tom Wright could well have joined him in an All-Star Four.
Despite coming second, iAthletic will be heading to Malaysia for the 2018 Penang Masters event as part of the FIBA3X3 World Tour held from 13-14 October. Steel, Wright and Carter will be joined by Tommy Greer for their second ever World Tour event in which they will be looking to progress further than when they suited up in Japan for the Utsunomiya Master in whcih they finished 12th.
In the women's event, the Melbourne Magic came away with an impressive tournament win after holding off Spectres iAthletic in the final. Brimming with Big V stars, Lucy Dawson and Courtney Duever were brilliant for Melbourne all tournament, while Bec Ott and Chelsea Burns played their roles to near-perfection to topple the Spectres who suited up former WNBL star and current SEABL player Hanna Zavecz, her Nunawading SEABL team-mate Izzy Chilcott, along with Australian junior representative Georgia Amoore and Keeley Frawley.
Melbourne went through the tournament undefeated, taking down the USC Rip3X3 A team which boasted current number two ranked Australian player Carlie Smith in a thriller. They also held off the Southern Bobcats who featured former WNBL players Sam Woosnam and Kelly Bowen, with SEABL stars Tessa Boyd and Jess Bygate.
Courtney Duever of Melbourne delivered an MVP-like performance across the day, coming up big when it mattered most to help get her team across the line. It would have been fitting if the Rip's Carlie Smith, the Bobcats' Jess Bygate, and Melbourne team-mate Lucy Dawson were named alongside Duever for a star-studded All-star 5.
If this event is anything to go by, the 2018/19 season of Australian 3X3 hoops is shaping up to be the best ever.
CLB3X3's Summer Series next heads to Port Macquarie run over 12-14 October, with a Corporate Cup, juniors, seniors and all-abilities events open for registrations.
2018/19 CLB3X3 Summer Series Schedule
You can register for an event via the FIBA 3X3 Planet app or website.