The Australian men and women have completed a perfect day at the 2019 FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup, winning all four of their group stage games to advance to Sunday’s finals.
Beginning their title defence against South Korea who had advanced into the main draw via the qualifying stage, the Aussie men faced a physical battle, even by 3×3 standards.
Korea jumped out to an early 4-1 lead but Tom Wright (ten points) quickly replied with three in a row to tie things up after three minutes.
Lucas Walker (four points) then connected from distance and Tim Coenraad (six points) followed with consecutive two’s to give Australia their first lead while foul trouble also proved an issue for Korea.
Their long-range shooting kept them in it but Wright proved just as deadly from beyond the arc.
When he did miss a shot, he was able to follow it up to sink a one-pointer and that proved a crucial play as it kept Australia’s nose in front 15-13.
Both teams found themselves in the penalty down the stretch but Korea had a costly miss from the charity stripe.
Coenraad soon followed that with a back-breaking two before Greg Hire finished the contest off for a 21-17 victory.
The men returned to the floor three hours later against Mongolia in a re-match of the 2018 FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup gold medal game.
High-low action between Coenraad (seven points) and Walker and then a two-pointer from Coenraad gave Australia the ascendancy early, 6-2.
Wright (five points) then set up Walker with either an alley-oop or a two-pointer (see below) but the play proved that everything was working for the Aussies as they moved in front 11-4.
Mongolia looked to assert themselves physically but they could not match Walker (eight points) in the paint and then Wright contributed from distance to clinch a comprehensive 21-8 win.
Bronze medalists at last year’s FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup, Australia began this year’s tournament against the team that beat them in the 2018 Semi-Final in New Zealand.
With a point to prove, the Aussies started well and utilised a two-pointer from Bec Cole and a slick move inside from Hanna Zavecz to open up a 5-1 lead.
Several quick fouls enabled New Zealand to keep within striking distance but both teams were locked in defensively as Australia only owned a 7-3 edge halfway through the game.
The pick and roll between Maddie Garrick and Alice Kunek began to pay dividends for Australia and Kunek then showed off her all-round game, going to work on the block before nailing a two-pointer to give the Aussies some breathing space.
The final minute belonged to New Zealand but the match was beyond their reach as Australia claimed a 17-15 win.
Back on court for their second game, Australia took on the home side in China and had to battle the crowd as well as the opposition.
An arm-wrestle to begin with, the scores were tied at just 2-2 after two minutes before Australia forced a couple of turnovers.
Garrick then moved Australia in front 9-5 with a step-back two-pointer before the combination of Kunek and Cole took over.
They collected two straight steals and three consecutive points while Zavecz showcased her perimeter defence with a block to take the momentum.
That forced China to increase the tempo which opened up the game, benefiting Kunek as she reached five points in quick succession at the rim.
The home team did not give in, pushing Australia to the foul limit and closing within four inside the last 90 seconds but Garrick kept them at bay with an athletic finish through contact.
That shot gave them a big enough buffer to run out the clock on the last possession and claim a 16-14 win.
The second half of the group stage schedule will be completed on Saturday, giving Australia a rest day before the men take on Japan in the Quarter-Finals and the women face the Philippines.
Australia’s schedule at the 2019 FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup (all times AEST):
May 24: Men def. Korea 21-17
May 24: Women def. New Zealand 17-15
May 24: Men def. Mongolia 21-8
May 24: Women def. China 16-14
May 26: Quarter-Final: Women vs. Philippines at 2.10pm
May 26: Quarter-Final: Men vs. Japan at 5.40pm
May 26: Semi-Finals between 7.05pm and 8.30pm
May 26: Medal games between 9.05pm and 10.30pm