History beckons the Australian Boomers at the FIBA World Cup as they remained undefeated in China and advanced to a grudge match in the semi finals with Spain after winning their quarter-final 82-70 against the Czech Republic.
The semi-final night in Shanghai started with a shock as France defeated the USA to eliminate the defending World Cup and Olympic Games champions with the French setting up their own semi-final battle against Argentina on Friday.
All that was required to see whether it was Australia or Czech Republic to make up the final four teams and take on Spain in a semi-final.
It was a tight first half with Australia only leading 33-30 at the half-time break but then it was the third quarter that saw the Boomers take over the contest against a Czech Republic team ranked 24 in the world and playing in a first ever FIBA World Cup.
Australia finished the third quarter on a 20-5 run and then withstood a couple of Czech Republic runs in the final term to come away winning by 12 points and advance to the semi finals undefeated from six matches in the World Cup.
The Boomers will now face Spain with a spot in Sunday’s gold medal match on the line and it doubles as a rematch of the semi-final battle at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 where anyone involved or watching will never forget the controversial way Australia was robbed in that contest.
Spain and Australia head into that semi-final contest undefeated in the FIBA World Cup and now with definite visions of gold should they prevail on Friday.
Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis was happy with the way the team shooting off an anxious start, continued to do well defensive and now put themselves one win away from a historic medal.
“I’m pleased with the outcome of the game obviously and the Czech Republic are a good basketball team, and we have a lot of respect for the way they have played at this tournament,” Lemanis said.
“With their switching defences, it caused us to be a little anxious early and it took us a while to find our rhythm but once we did, I thought we did a nice job of starting to get the looks we wanted to.
“But our defence held firm the whole time and we kept them 70 points on seven made threes for a team shooting better than 40 per cent coming in. it was a good, solid performance and it’s humbling how great the guys are and the way they play for one another, and stick together.
“It’s just a wonderful group to be with, it’s inspiring. But the job’s not done for us. We finished fourth at the Olympics and that was a terrible feeling, but we’ve given ourselves an opportunity now and we need to ensure that we do everything we can to take advantage of it moving into the semi finals.”
Once again it was Patty Mills top-scoring for the Boomers with 24 points and six assists while connecting on 3/6 from long-range.
Chris Goulding continued to stand tall on the world stage with another 14 points on 4/11 shooting from deep while Andrew Bogut finished with 10 points, three assists, three blocks and two rebounds on 5/6 shooting.
Australia had plenty more contributors with Matthew Dellavedova delivering nine points, five rebounds and three assists, Jock Landale seven points and four boards, Joe Ingles six points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Aron Baynes contributed six points, five rebounds and four assists while Nick Kay added four points and seven boards, and Mitch Creek two points and three rebounds.
It has been quite the tournament from Czech Republic to reach the quarter finals and Patrik Auda top-scored off the bench with 21 points on 8/11 shooting including 3/3 from three-point territory.
Tomas Satoransky added 13 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds to go ever so close to that first ever FIBA World Cup triple-double with Pavel Pumprla contributing 10 points and three assists, and Jaromir Bohacik eight points.
Australia scored first courtesy of a Patty Mills triple on a Joe Ingles assist, as per the usual. But the Czech soon led 6-3 and 8-5 before Mills knocked down a second triple. When Ingles scored on a layup, the Boomers had their first lead 10-8.
Mills extended that lead with a third triple in the first six minutes but the Czech Republic settled with a 9-2 run heading towards quarter-time where scores were tied at 17-apiece thanks to a Nick Kay dunk on the buzzer.
Chris Goulding nailed a three also to start the second period but the Boomers weren’t quite in rhythm against intense Czechs. The game was becoming a grind but Mills connected on another bomb from downtown with 4:30 left in the half to put the Boomers back up one.
Both teams continued to find scoring difficult until Goulding hit a fadeaway jumper and then Matthew Dellavedova got to the basket. From there, the Boomers managed to lead 33-30 by the half-time break after a Jock Landale finish on another Ingles dime.
Third quarters hadn’t been the strong suit of Australia to date at the World Cup and things remained tight until the Boomers began to pull away with a Dellavedova connecting from deep and then Landale throwing down a slam.
Bogut then delivered a pretty pass to a wide open Goulding who connected from three and then Kay finished inside to make it a 10-point game. Bogut then also scored inside to put Australia up 12 and he put in a little hook to make it 14 heading to three quarter-time.
The Boomers still led 63-46 by three quarter-time when Goulding nailed another three and then despite a thunderous buzzer-beating dunk from Tomas Satoransky.
It only took a minute and-a-half of the fourth quarter for Czech Republic to get back within eight points after scoring nine quickly, but after a timeout, Dellavedova found Baynes for a big alley-oop finish.
While the Czechs never stopped fighting, they could never get closer than seven points and when Bogut took over down the stretch with three big baskets while Mills hit another bomb, the Boomers remained in control to win by 12 and advance to the semi finals.
FIBA WORLD CUP – QUARTER FINAL
AUSTRALIA 82 (Patty Mills 24, Chris Goulding 14, Andrew Bogut 10)
CZECH REPUBLIC 70 (Patrik Auda 21, Tomas Satoransky 13, Pavel Pumprla 10)