The Australian Spinners have stumbled in their quest to advance to the U23 World Championships later this year, dropping consecutive games to Iran and Japan on Day 2 of the AOZ Qualifiers.
With two games still remaining in the group stage, Australia are currently in third position out of six teams but they are certainly not out of contention as the top three teams will qualify.
It does make today’s game against host nation Thailand a must-win though with Thursday’s clash against China also a game that will have ramifications on the final standings.
The Spinners will rue their slow start against Iran as their opposition ended the first period on a 12-4 run.
They then doubled the margin by the main break to lead by 20 points as Mohammadhassan Sayari (36 points, 23 rebounds, five assists, four steals, two blocks) scored 30 of his points in the first half.
Australia entered the third quarter more focused at the defensive end, starting the term with a 14-4 run as Tom O’Neill-Thorne began to get into a groove.
The Paralympian finished with a game-high 38 points to go with nine boards, four assists and three steals as he helped cut the margin to single figures in the final period.
Sarayi then fouled out in the dying minutes which gave the Australians renewed hope but time proved their enemy as they fell short, 61-65.
Jontee Brown added seven points for the Spinners while Steven Elliott tallied three points and eight boards but the Aussies shot just 33% from the field and 13-26 from the free-throw line.
Backing up only a couple of hours later against Japan was a tough ask and again the Spinners found themselves trailing at quarter-time, 8-16.
They struggled to pull themselves back into the contest this time as Japan’s Renshi Chokai dominated at both ends but a three-pointer from O’Neill-Thorne on the half-time buzzer gave the Spinners some momentum.
Japan erased any hope of a comeback though in the third period as Chokai (20 points, 11 rebounds, seven steals) out-scored his opposition by himself with 12 points as they went on to record a 60-41 win.
Every Australian received court time for the third consecutive game, paced again by O’Neill-Thorne (13 points, eight rebounds) while Brown and Jake Fulwood added another eight points each.
Heading into Day 3, the standings are as follows:
Iran– 2 wins (total margin of +118)
Japan– 2 wins (+89)
Australia– 1 win (+34)
China– 1 win (even)
Thailand– 0 wins (-40)
India– 0 wins (-201)
The Australian Under-23 Spinners AOZ Qualifiers Schedule (all times AEDT):
Wednesday, January 25: Australia vs. Thailand at 3.30pm
Thursday, January 26: Australia vs. China at 5.30pm
Friday, January 27: 5th vs. 6th at 3.30pm
Friday, January 27: 1st vs. 4th at 5.30pm
Friday, January 27: 2nd vs. 3rd at 7.30pm
Saturday, January 28: Bronze medal game at 4pm
Saturday, January 28: Gold medal game at 6.30pm
Keep an eye on the Basketball Australia Twitter for updates throughout their games.