NEW title, new teams, new champions. Australia, playing for the first time at the rebranded FIBA Asia Cup, became the first Oceanic team to be crowned champions of Asia when they beat Iran in Sunday’s final.
The Boomers, who went into the tournament in Lebanon as favourites, had beaten the second and third favourites, New Zealand and China, as well as Japan, Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong en route to the title.
Australia underlined their depth of talent by sweeping all-comers in Lebanon despite missing 11 of the 12 players who reached the Olympic semi-finals in Rio last year.
None of the Boomers’ National Basketball Association (NBA) stars travelled to Lebanon.
Andrej Lemanis’ team did not need them. Having beaten Oceanic rivals New Zealand 106-79 in the semi-final, Australia were 79-56 winners over Iran in Sunday’s showpiece.
They did not trail for even one play, despite shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 23.5 percent from three, with Brad Newley dropping 18 points, Daniel Kickert 14 and Mitch Creek 12, while Jason Cadee supplied eight assists and Angus Brandt claiming eight boards.
Iran chose a bad time to have an off-night, shooting only 35.2 percent from the field and missing nine of their 10 three-point efforts.
At no previous point in the tournament had they shot as poorly. In their semi-final win over South Korea, Iran had shot 55.2 percent from the field.
Hamed Haddadi was as effective as ever, shooting 18 points, including six-for-seven from three, and claiming seven rebounds.
Australia’s is a new name among Asian champions, following in the footsteps of China (16 times), Philippines (five), Iran (three), Japan (two) and South Korea (two).
The Boomers had previously won the now-defunct FIBA Oceania Championship 19 out of 22 times.
Final: Australia 79 Iran 56
Bronze medal match: South Korea 80 New Zealand 71
Fifth-place match: China 79 Lebanon 78
Seventh-place match: Philippines 75 Jordan 70
Semi-finals: Australia 106 New Zealand 79, Iran 87 South Korea 81