The Australian Under-23 Spinners have fought out another close battle with Iran, falling just short in a 59-64 loss in the Semi-Final of the AOZ Qualifiers.
All is not lost for the Spinners though with a final chance at World Championship qualification today when they take on Thailand at 4pm AEDT in the bronze medal game, a team they defeated in the group stage.
After their first meeting with Iran, Australia knew they had to contain Mohammadhassan Sayari whose dominating presence under the rim proved too much to handle last time and as they kept him scoreless through the first term, the Spinners were able to jump out to a two-point lead.
Jake Fulwood (14 points, nine rebounds) and Brian Carminati (13 points, seven rebounds) kept the scoreboard ticking over at the other end of the floor, helping the Aussies open up a game-high seven-point margin at half-time.
Iran knew they had to change up their offence coming out of the main break and they worked hard to get Sayari free while costly turnovers from the Spinners began to see the lead dwindle.
Going back and forth in the final term, both teams had their chances to clinch a World Championship spot but Iran were cleaner offensively with Sayari (27 points, 20 rebounds) again putting on a show against Tom O’Neill-Thorne (23 points, ten rebounds, 11 assists) who recorded a second triple-double for the tournament.
Jontee Brown (nine points, ten boards) also starred but it was a 16-7 advantage for Iran in points off turnovers that proved costly for the Spinners.
The Under-23 AOZ Qualifiers Schedule (all times AEDT):
Saturday, January 28: Australia v Thailand at 4pm for a spot in the World Championships
Saturday, January 28: Japan v Iran at 6.30pm for the gold medal
Keep an eye on the Basketball Australia Twitter for updates throughout today’s final game while the Thailand Wheelchair Basketball Facebook page has been live-streaming some games of the tournament.