The Australian Boomers survive a late scare to defend their title and secure the gold medal at the FIBA 2022 Asia Cup, defeating Lebanon, 75-73.
Australia had all the momentum in the first quarter, getting out to an early seven-point lead with Lebanon unable to slow it down.
The Boomers’ defence was too strong for the Cedars in the first quarter, restricting them to 10 points on very low efficiency, shooting 18.75 per cent from the field.
While on the other hand, the Boomers were able to get whatever they wanted, scoring 22 points on 60 per cent shooting, giving themselves a 12-point lead at the first change.
Lebanon started the second quarter strongly, scoring the first five points to reduce Australia’s lead to seven points but Australia would go on an eight to zero run to extend its lead to a game-high 16 points.
The Boomers were relentless defensively, suffocating the Cedars, not allowing any space to operate. Despite Australia’s defence pressure, Lebanon was able to get itself back into the contest, going on a nine to two run, giving itself momentum going into the halfway point and reducing the margin to 10 points.
To give themselves the best chance to challenge the Boomers, the Cedars needed to continue their momentum from the second quarter.
Both sides traded baskets for much of the third quarter, but it was Lebanon guard Wael Arakji who started to turn up, scoring seven points in the quarter to keep Lebanon within touching distance of Australia, going into the final change down by 14 points.
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It was much the same to start the final quarter, with Lebanon trying to make a comeback and Australia answering back, ensuring it maintained its lead.
Australia’s poor shooting from the foul line (eight from 21 attempts) left it vulnerable, leaving several easy points from the charity stripe. Up until three minutes to go, the Boomers had the game done and won but Wael Arakji had other plans.
The 27-year-old scored 15 points in the final quarter, almost dragging Lebanon to a spectacular comeback but Australian youngster Tyrese Proctor ensure Australia would get over the line, making both of his foul shots.
Arakji came down the other end of the floor and hit a massive three-point shot to keep Lebanon’s dream alive but Australian forward Rhys Vague knocked down one of his two free throws to ensure Austalia maintained a two-point lead.
Lebanon had one final opportunity to go for the win but Ali Haidar’s three attempt fell short, giving Australia the victory, and its second consecutive FIBA Asia Cup title.
Australia was again led by Mitch McCarron (12 points, five assists, and four steals), Thon Maker (14 points, eight rebounds, two steals, and three blocks), and Tyrese Proctor (10 points), while Wael Arakji (28 points, seven rebounds, and five assists) and Ali Haidar (23 points and nine rebounds) gave Lebanon every chance of stealing victory.
Mitch McCarron and Thon Maker’s wonderful tournaments saw them named in the tournament’s All-Star five, alongside Kiwi Tohi Smith-Milner, China’s Zhou Qi, and Lebanon’s Wael Arakji, who was also named the MVP for the entire tournament after his efforts throughout the Asia Cup.
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