The Australian Emus have navigated a confidence-boosting warm-up series in Latvia ahead of the FIBA Under-19 World Cup, winning all three games against the hosts, Lithuania and Russia.
On their way to Greece for the official tournament, the Emus stopped off in Latvia for a single game against the hosts before participating in a mini-tournament that included Lithuania and Russia.
Australia came out on top, 85-61, in their first clash against the host nation after they opened up a 21-point lead at half-time.
Kody Stattmann paced the Emus with 19 points, Sean Macdonald and Tyler Robertson added 12 points each while Tamuri Wigness (nine points, three assists, five steals) helped his side finish with a 25-10 advantage in points off turnovers.
Emus coach Darren Perry was able to spread the minutes around with everyone getting at least 11 minutes of court time and nobody exceeding 22.
“The contributions by all the players were valuable- we had different guys step up and make plays when needed at both ends of the floor,” said Perry.
“It was a solid start to the campaign that we can build from.”
The next day against Lithuania, Australia opened up another healthy advantage in the first half on the back of a 26-11 opening term.
They still led by eight with under four minutes remaining but were made to fight by Lithuania who scored the next four points in the space of 50 seconds.
Macdonald (seven points, six assists) calmed any nerves with a three-pointer though as the Emus went on to claim a 68-63 win.
Their front court dominated the contest as Samson Froling scored 19, Stattmann had 13 points and Callum Dalton had nine points off the bench while Kyle Bowen countered a poor shooting night with 12 rebounds (five offensive) and a block.
“This was a genuine battle with many momentum shifts,” said Perry, post-game.
“We were able to build an early lead but Lithuania came up the floor with great pressure which stemmed our offensive flow.
“The pleasing thing was that even though we had to manage some foul trouble in the second half, we were able to settle and get control of the game, execute good offense and defend late in the fourth quarter to secure the win.”
The Emus final warm-up game came against Russia and they secured a sweep of the week with an 88-78 victory.
Trailing by five at half-time, Australia reduced the margin by half-time and then blew their opponents away with a 45-33 second half.
Combining for an efficient 13-20 shooting, Froling (19 points) and Keli Leaupepe (16 points, seven rebounds) controlled proceedings from the paint while Dalton (nine points) and Bowen (eight points) also played important roles off the bench.
Stattmann notched double-digits in scoring for the third consecutive game with 12 points and Alex Ducas impressed as well with six points and three steals.
“The Russians proved difficult to contain in the first half and although we scored freely, we found ourselves behind at the half,” said Perry.
“After the main break, we defended better as a group and rebounded effectively which helped us get out in transition for some easy baskets. Like the game against Lithuania, the fourth quarter defensive effort was the difference in the game.”
The Emus will now take on Puerto Rico in their final warm-up game before the Under-19 World Cup begins Saturday night against Canada.
The Australian Emus Schedule for the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup (all times AEST):
June 29: Emus vs. Canada at 10.30pm
June 30: Emus vs. Latvia at 11.00pm
July 3: Emus vs. Mali at 1.15am
July 4: Round of 16
July 6: Quarter-Finals
July 7: Semi-Finals
July 8: Medal Games