Captain Patty Mills produced a performance for the ages, sinking a game-high 42 points as he led his team and country to a bronze medal in Tokyo.
It was the Boomers’ sweetest moment after finishing fourth, having lost the bronze medal game on four occasions.
Mills, in his fourth Olympics having carried the Australian flag at the opening ceremony a fortnight ago, was bursting with pride and emotion post game.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time and it’s taken a lot of experiences, a lot of ups, a lot of downs for us to get over the hump,’’ he said.
“It’s our culture at the end of the day, the Australian culture, our Aussie spirit, the boys being able to hang together and realise what it means to be able to represent your country, for it to come pouring out in moments like this.
“Now that we’ve made it over the hill, this is the standard now of Australian men’s basketball and we take nothing less. We say ‘gold vibes only’ is the standard and we won’t accept anything less on the court or off the court.
“I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or smile. A lot of emotions.
“It’s time to bring an Olympic medal back to our country Australia so I can hang it at mum and dad’s house.”
Australia led by 20-19 at quarter time before extending their buffer to eight at the half on the back of a scintillating 19-point-second-quarter to Mills.
The Boomers would lead by 11 points at the final change, getting out to 14 early in the fourth quarter before Slovenia would launch one last gutsy charge getting within three points off the back of its superstar Luka Doncic (22 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists). But the Boomers would put demons of the past behind them, maintain composure and charge home to a famous win.
Veteran Joe Ingles scored the first four points of the game, and despite not scoring again until the third term every one of his 12 points in the second half meant plenty.
Olympic debutant Jock Landale (14 points) capped a wonderful tournament, Dante Exum (12 points) did crucial things at crucial times while Matisse Thybulle, a revelation for Australia in his first Olympics, brought all the attributes he’s won a legion of fans for while adding 11 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals.
The Boomers win and campaign is bursting with great tales from centre Aron Baynes, so crucial to Australia’s structure who suffered a tournament-ending injury and couldn’t be on court tonight to coach Brian Goorjian back at the helm, appointed last November, after leading Australia in Athens and Beijing fittingly mentored the Boomers to an Olympic podium finish.
Australia 107 (Mills 42 points, Ingles 16, Landale 14, Exum 12, Thybulle 11) defeated Slovenia 93 (Doncic 22, Prepelic 18, Tobey 13, Blazic 12)
The Last Word with Brad Newley, 2x Boomers Olympian (2008, 2012)
“As a proud Australian kid growing up dreaming of winning an Olympic medal to achieving the dream of actually competing at an Olympics now watching again at home with my own family it feels like we now have something to show for years of effort. Feels like a huge weight is off our sport’s shoulders.
Those guys should be so proud of what they’ve done and there wouldn’t be one ex-Boomers out there who would disagree with me. To even know and feel what these guys have been through and to see us up on the podium….PRIDE”
Australian Boomers Tokyo 2020 bronze medallists: Patty Mills (captain), Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes, Nick Kay, Dante Exum, Matisse Thybulle, Jock Landale, Chris Goulding, Duop Reath, Nathan Sobey, Josh Green.