Andrej Lemanis’ experimental Boomers team took an early lead in the Sino-Australia Challenge series against China with a thrilling 97-95 overtime win in the opening game at Challenge Stadium last night.
China built a healthy advantage during the first-half on the back of some hot shooting, but couldn’t hold their hosts at bay late in the game.
The rampant Boomers outscored their opponents 18-7 in the fourth quarter to send the game to extra time, where last-ditch free-throws from Cameron Gliddon and Rhys Martin sealed the result.
WA product Luke Nevill was one of the Boomers’ best in front of his home crowd with 16 points and six rebounds, while Ben Madgen (17 points), Brock Motum (17) and Lucas Walker (15) were also prominent.
Zhou Peng (20 points), Liu Ziao-Yu (19 ), and Gu Quan (16 points) were the key contributors for the inexperienced Chinese team, which will take confidence from its competitive first-up performance.
"We started as a team who hadn't played a lot together and there was some things that obviously we can work on and get better at," the coach said.
"Waxy (Walker) moving to the four spot really helped us and he did a good job moving them off the bounce. But at the end of the day it was our full-court defence that disrupted their rhythm."
A disappointing crowd of just 2025 was in attendance, with the late 8.30pm tip-off time playing a factor.
But ticket sales are strong for game two at the same venue tomorrow night (tip-off 6.30pm).
After bringing out a veteran core of players for last year’s Sino-Australia Challenge, led by five-time Olympian Zhizhi Wang, China this time brought a 15-man touring party filled with some of the best young players in the Chinese Basketball Association.
It signaled a changing of the guard under coach Luming Gong, whose oldest player is 25-year-old guard Xiaoyu Liu.
China’s inexperience didn’t show against the Boomers in the first three periods.
They led 25-14 at quarter-time on the back of a hot shooting display, nailing 60 per cent of their field goal attempts in the first period.
The visitors got better from there, making the most of some sluggish Boomers defence to nail 9-of-13 field goals in the second quarter and extend the lead to 15 points by half-time.
Madgen and Nevill had nine points each for the Boomers at the half, but Gu Quan (12) and Zhou Peng (eight) were leading the charge at the other end.
The Boomers fought back in the second half and tempers flared with the game on the line as the teams engaged in some push and shove before a last-ditch bucket from the impressive Motum sent the game to overtime.
For the Boomers, the Sino-Australia Challenge represents the first step on the road to the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain, starting on August 30.
Lemanis has said at least five spots are up for grabs on the final 12-man roster, making the current series a virtual audition for a string of World Cup hopefuls based in the NBL, US college system and Europe.
The players have three more chances to make an impression during the Sino-Australia Challenge, which continues at Challenge Stadium tomorrow night before moving to China for the final games on June 6 and 8.