The Australian Crocs have succeeded in their main goal at the FIBA Under-16 Asian Championships, booking a spot in the Under-17 World Cup later this year with a hard-fought 69-60 victory over Korea in the Quarter-Finals.
After cruising through the group stage, Australia came up against a determined Korean side whose tough defence, combined with a poor shooting night from the Crocs, almost saw them pull of an upset.
With so much on the line, it was a scrappy start from both teams with Australia shooting 1-10 to begin while Korea could not hit a field goal for almost the first five minutes.
Despite continuing to miss shots, the Crocs controlled the glass and tallied nine offensive rebounds by quarter-time with those second chance opportunities starting to pay off.
Behind four points and seven rebounds each from Luke Jackson and Kobe Williamson, Australia moved in front by a point at the first change.
However, Korea’s zone defence was causing havoc and they were consistently getting to the free-throw line and that resulted in an eight-point deficit at half-time for the Aussies while Korea owned a +11 edge from the charity stripe.
Midway through the third term, the Crocs finally found their rhythm and it was Jackson (12 points, 17 rebounds) and Williamson (nine points, 17 rebounds) who were the instigators as they reeled off seven straight points.
Tamuri Wigness then picked off a pass and carried the ball the length of the floor to tie the game as Australia looked to be rolling but Korea had an answer, drilling a three-pointer in response and then pushing the lead back out to five at the last change.
The Crocs had found some momentum though and consecutive stops at the defensive end were followed by a three from Jay Rantall (ten points) before Joel Capetola (six points, three steals) put Australia back in front for the first time in the second half with seven minutes to go.
Wani Swaka Lo Buluk (15 points, three blocks) then asserted himself, knocking down two three’s and recording a huge rejection at the other end of the floor as the Crocs went on a 16-1 run with Wigness (nine points) also joining in from downtown.
Trailing by eight inside the final minute, Korea had one last surprise for the Aussies as they reeled off five points in nine seconds but the Crocs remained calm and clinched the victory from the free-throw line.
Shooting 34% from the field and 6-28 from the three-point line are both numbers that the Crocs will need to improve as they head towards the business end of the tournament but another strong performance on the glass resulted in a 58-35 edge in rebounds and a +16 advantage in offensive boards.
Find the box score here and watch the replay below.
Having now secured a spot in the Under-17 World Cup later this year, the Crocs can focus on claiming their first Asian Championship gold medal but they will have to get through old Oceania rivals New Zealand in the Semi-Final tomorrow first.
All contests through the tournament will be live-streamed by FIBA and simulcast on the Basketball Australia Facebook page.
Stay tuned to Basketball Australia’s social media channels for updates throughout the competition.
The Australian Crocs Schedule for the Under-16 Asian Championships (all times AEST):
April 7 Semi-Final: Australia vs. New Zealand at 5pm
April 8: Bronze Medal Game at 6pm, Gold Medal Game at 8pm