Tom Garlepp was the hero for Australia at the FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup, draining a two-pointer in overtime to defeat Mongolia and win the gold medal while the women won bronze in a clinical performance against Japan.
Coached with aplomb by Dave Biwer, the results are a reversal of last year when the women won gold and the men won bronze but consecutive podium placings for both teams maintains Australia’s growing stature on the 3×3 scene.
For the men, they took on reigning Champions Mongolia in the final but they needed some heroism from Garlepp in the Semi-Final against Japan to get there after they had dismantled South Korea 21-9 in the Quarter-Final.
Jumping out to a 9-6 lead against Japan, Australia were peppering two-pointers at their opposition but Japan gave them some of their own medicine to move in front by three points with 1:20 remaining.
The Aussies answered through Garlepp who hit back-to-back baskets before Tom Wright tied things up with a nifty lay-up.
Australia then had a time-out to set up a play for Owen Odigie but he slipped over on his way to the rim. Somehow, he kept his composure though and kicked the ball out to Wright who found a wide-open Garlepp.
The big man made no mistake with what proved to be a game-winner from long-distance before Wright blocked a potential game-tying shot from Japan on the buzzer, giving the Aussies an 18-16 victory to advance them into the gold medal game.
In the final, Garlepp started with two makes from offensive rebounds while Australia’s defence held strong, keeping Mongolia scoreless for the opening two minutes.
A beautiful step-back two-pointer from Wright then made it a 7-2 game before Mongolia stepped up their defence, blocking attempts from Steel and Wright.
Wright hit another from beyond the arc to calm things down though and a basket off his own miss tied the game inside the last 50 seconds.
Odigie scored but Mongolia had a quick reply and then a contentious foul call on Andrew Steel gave Mongolia a chance to win it from the free-throw line.
However, they missed on both attempts which sent the game into overtime and while Mongolia scored the first bucket, two points were needed for victory and Garlepp delivered with his second consecutive game-winner, clinching the gold medal at the same time.
The women began their last day of competition with a mammoth 21-3 victory over Indonesia in the Quarter-Final which included a 7-0 run to set up the win.
Backing up a few hours later against New Zealand in the Semi-Final, a bevy of WNBL talent was on display with seven of the eight players a part of last season.
It was a defensive battle between the sides, tied at 5-5 halfway through the contest before Maddie Garrick got her mid-range game going which sparked two-pointers from Keely Froling and Bec Cole for a 7-1 run.
The highlight of the game came when Carlie Smith and Cole connected on an alley-oop which gave Australia a seven-point cushion with 1:30 to go but New Zealand were not done with.
Toni Edmondson, Chevannah Paalvast and Kalani Purcell and nailed two’s in quick succession before Paalvast hit a reverse which sent the game into overtime as the Kiwi’s came from nowhere in a frantic final minute.
In the extra period, both teams struggled to make a shot but the Aussies lost Micaela Cocks off a rebound and the Townsville Fire WNBL Champion drained the long-range basket, breaking the hearts of the Australians in a 19-18 win to end their dreams of defending their FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup gold medal.
Putting that disappointment behind them, Australia took on Japan for the bronze medal in a re-match of their pool stage game and in similar fashion, the Aussies utilised the height of Froling to block any Japanese lay-up attempts whileGarrick’s harassing perimeter defence helped restrict the opposition to just one point in the first four minutes.
Australia were struggling to score as well- the effects of a busy few days on the 3×3 court taking their toll- and they only led by a point at the halfway mark.
Once a couple of shots fell from Garrick and Cole though, the onslaught began and a 13-0 run set up a comfortable 17-5 victory to claim the bronze medal.
In addition to the podium places for both teams, Garlepp was named the men’s tournament MVP and earned a spot in the Team of the Tournament while Bec Cole was named to the Team of the Tournament as well for the women.
Watch the replay of both the women’s bronze medal playoff and the men’s gold medal playoff (including Garlepp’s game-winner) below.