Australia came out playing far smarter basketball. Looking calm and confident, the Aussies were far slicker moving the ball around and had no trouble creating opening shots. Tom Wilson and Dejan Vasiljevic were particularly impressive with their movement inside and out to keep the American defence honest. After trading buckets early, Australia ran out into a 17-7 lead which they thoroughly deserved from the early exchanges. The USA called a time out to calm things down and the switch in play became immediately obvious.
The USA were made to work for it but eventually secured their third straight title at the FIBA U17 World Championship for men in Dubai, after a late air raid by Australia.
The Americans dared the Aussies into quick threes off the press but Australia didn’t bite and tried to keep it patient. Their interior offence however let them down and, with the USA choosing their shots better and moving into a 28-27 lead at the end of the quarter. Malik Newman kept the foot on the gas through the second frame, scoring 17 of his 21 points on the day in the first half, as the USA moved into a double digit lead. Mistakes however still crept into their game and Australia kept the score manageable at the break, trailing 50-43.
A strong start by the Aussies made things interesting early in the third but every time it looked like getting down to a two-possession or better game, the US reeled off a couple of quick scores. Not that the American youngsters were perfect. For the second straight frame, the United States had the opportunity to open up a big gulf and when they made the lead double-digits they looked ready to explode. Once more however they let Australia hang around and cut the deficit again. The USA eventually moved it out again to lead 74-64 going into the final 10 minutes but it was obvious that they were far from on their game, due in no small part to the effort of the Australians.
The fourth quarter finally saw the USA stretch their legs and truly take the game to their tiring opponents. With far greater depth, the Americans had the energy to punish the Aussies. Movement inside became easier and the Americans had little difficulty creating quality shots. Even when making shots, the energy looked gone from Australia’s legs. Isaac Humphries, who struggled with foul trouble, laboured a bucket to bring it back to within 11 but he couldn’t repeat his semi-final heroics on this occasion.
And then, Australia decided they were going to throw caution to the wind and it nearly got really interesting.
Tired though they were, there was still fight in this Australian team as Vasiljevic made a three to cut the gap to six but, as happened so often through the game, the USA were immediately able to respond this time through Harry Giles. Kouat Noi, Wilson, and Vasiljevic all made threes on consecutive possessions as the Aussies finished strong. Vasiljevic finished with 29 points, Wilson had 23, but it wasn’t enough for Australia as the USA hung on.
Earlier in the day Serbia claimed the bronze medal by beating Spain. Here’s how that game ended courtesy of Eurohoops.
Serbia’s 62-59 win gave them the bronze, avenging their loss to Spain in the final of the European Under 16 championships last year.
The Serbs also got one man on the all-tournament team with Nikola Rakicevic joining Australia’s Humphries and Vasiljevic and the USA’s Newman and Diamond Stone. Newman was also named tournament MVP, having picked up the same honour at last year’s FIBA Americas Under 16 tournament.