The Australian Boomers secured a 2-0 series sweep over China in the inaugural YouYi Games tournament a week ago with a 62-57 win in Singapore. While both of the games were very scrappy, the experience gave some of our young basketball talent a taste of International competition. This friendly series is penciled in to be an annual event with a game in Australia and one in Asia. On this occasion the tournament served as a preparation stage for Australia’s upcoming Olympic qualification test against New Zealand.
Gauging the performance of the Australian squad was difficult as they had only been together for just over a week. The preparation seemed to go well however, and spirits were high heading in to Game One. Speaking with coach Brett Brown before the team was selected gave Hoop Diary a glimpse of how Brett was going to tackle the two-game series.
“It’s a melting pot of different players from Europe, NCAA, NBL… I think they’re young guys, aspiring future Olympians coming together and it’s good for me to see some of these new faces“
Game One at Perth’s Challenge Stadium saw some fierce competition with players from both sides playing a very physical style of Basketball. Chinese Head Coach Bob Donewald Jr had commented prior to the game that Australia had a reputation for being “one of the most physical teams in the world” so no doubt the Chinese were prepared. In a slow-paced, grinding and somewhat disorganised game offensively, there were few clear opportunities for Australia to create any transition baskets. The Boomers team was directed by Coach Brett Brown to push the tempo and post up their big guys but even with point guard Damian Martin pushing the pace, the game just didn’t lend itself to transition Basketball. On the rare occasions when Australia was able to run, they looked much better. Even though the Boomers seemed in control for the majority of the game, they were still challenged by a number of momentum swinging plays by the Chinese, including a couple of transition treys that kept them within striking distance.
The end of regulation really showed some mixed results for the Boomers as they had a chance to win the game at the buzzer. On a positive note they were able to perfectly execute a set play to get a high percentage shot. Unfortunately for the Boomers, Luke Nevill’s shot didn’t fall. Perhaps a few nerves set in on the big stage, although up until that point Nevill was a solid inside presence. Not to be too critical of one missed shot but Nevill is a skilled player and had a really good look on that last shot attempt and it really should have fallen. Like all things in sports, if the basket counts it’s genius, the fact it didn’t, deems it a missed opportunity.
Overtime was inglorious for both teams as turnovers and missed shots somewhat stole the show. The Boomers steadied however and were able to secure the ugly, yet gritty victory. The standout players for the Boomers were Damian Martin and Luke Nevill. The former pushed the pace all game and was always upping the tempo while Nevill’s 20 points and 13 rebounds spoke for themselves. Chinese guard Shipeng Wang was deadly from almost everywhere on the court and will be one to watch for China, and his 22 points kept China involved for stretches of the game. Daniel Dillon performed a great role in limited minutes, lighting up the court with his defensive intensity. Dillon was the only Boomer to slow down Wang which was a great result for the newly recruited Melbourne Tiger.
Game Two in Singapore saw a lot more positive signs for Australia than Game One. An early barrage from the Boomers had them leading from the outset and they never relinquished that lead. David Barlow played a great game punishing the Chinese from all over the court and swingman Peter Crawford found his range after struggling (0-8 from the field) in Game One. Daniel Dillon was able to showcase his defensive prowess as well as his athleticism by getting out in the open floor.
There were some excellent signs for Australia’s Basketball future with young players Anatoly Bose and Daniel Kickert contributing well over the two-game series.
The Boomers came a long way in just two games as far as chemistry and teamwork were concerned. The irony here unfortunately is that there are still a lot of players such as Patty Mills, David Andersen, Joe Ingles and Matt Neilsen to come back into the Boomers side to play New Zealand, so developing chemistry will always be challenging. Some great signs and some great spirit shown by the Boomers though and a very handy 2-0 win against a similarly ranked Chinese team.
Bring on New Zealand in September for the FIBA Oceania Championship!
Thanks for reading.
Paul Henderson is on Twitter! @HD_Paul