By Brooke Fankhauser
Australia’s U17M Crocs have defended their title in the U16 FIBA Asia World Cup Championship in Qatar, qualifying them for the U17 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain next month.
The Crocs were undefeated in their campaign for the championship, and young gun, Rocco Zikarsky, was named in the All-Star Five for the competition.
The 2.17 metre (7’1”) centre played just under 20 minutes per game for the Crocs but averaged 11.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks on 66.0 per cent shooting from the field. With an efficiency rating of 20.3, Zikarsky was one of the most efficient players in the tournament.
Australia dominated in the group phase, beginning with a convincing win over India 95-47.
Rocco Zikarsky top performed with 18 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks. Also strong for the Crocs was James O’Donnell with 15 points and 19 rebounds. Kye Savage with 17 points and five assists; and Tristan Devers finished with 15 points, three rebounds and two assists.
In game two, the Crocs showed no mercy to host country Qatar, winning 107-27.
The Crocs took some time to heat up after leading by only 18-10 in the first quarter. They later exploded with a 28-0 run that spanned through the second and third quarters of the game. Seven players scored in double-digits which included three double-double performances by Australia.
Zikarsky had another strong outing with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks, while Austin Rapp was just as impressive with 10 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists. Roman Siulepa was the third double-double performance for the match with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
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Australia ended the group phase with another strong win over Bahrain 88-41.
Bahrain started the match strong, leading for the majority of the first quarter. However, a 20-0 run from the Crocs saw them get a commanding lead. All the fielded Australia players got on the scoreboard and shot 54.5 per cent from the field as a team, with 4 players scoring in double digits.
The quarter-final match against the Philippines saw the Aussies really challenged for the first time in the competition.
The Philippines were up by as much as 17 points in the first half and were looking like they could do no wrong. The Crocs cranked up the intensity to start clawing their way back at the end of the second quarter.
Joshua Dent and Kye Savage combined for 10 three-pointers on only 14 attempts. While Savage led Australia in scoring with 27 points, it was Dent who had his best game yet with 17 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, and three steals in the win, 109-83.
The Aussies went on again to win their semi-final against Lebanon convincingly, 85-51.
It was another great team effort with nearly every player hitting the scoreboard for Australia. Jacob Furphy led the way with 15 points, Rocco Zikarsky and Roman Siulepa also added in double-digit scores with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
The final came down to defending champs, Australia, against Japan, who were making their first ever finals appearance.
Japan were strong competitors and were within two points in the second half, after being down by a double-digit deficit. But the Crocs switched gears and went on a 48-19 run home to clinch victory.
Australia had four players score in double-digits, led by Roman Siulepa who had 18 points.
Massive congratulations to the Crocodiles for the Championship win, including Coach, Justin Schueller and Assistant Coaches Samuel Jack Gruggen and Greg Vanderjagt. As well as all the Crocs’ support team.
The Crocs will play in the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup in Spain from July 2-10.