Heartbreak As Spain Beat Boomers In Double Overtime
They'd done it. You really thought they'd done it. And then...
And then they hadn't. Spain came back. They stole it. They broke our hearts. Somehow, Spain won a FIBA World Cup semi final which the Boomers dominated for long periods.
The final score, after double overtime, was 95-88 in favour of Spain.
The result means that the Boomers still have a chance of claiming their first medal at one of basketball's two main international showpieces -- the Olympics and the FIBA World Cup -- in their 26th appearance at those events.
But it won't be gold. It'll have to be bronze, if they beat the winner of the France vs Argentina game in the 3rd vs 4th playoff on Sunday evening at 4 pm AEST.
But that's something to think about on Sunday. For now, it's time to lament what could have been. And to celebrate a wonderful World Cup from probably the best-credentialled team ever to take the floor for Australia in an international competition -- and that's without their superstar Ben Simmons, who was unavailable due to NBA pre-season commitments.
In Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova and Andrew Bogut, the Boomers have three blokes who are not only NBA title winners, but guys who consistently lift when playing for their country. They've been wonderful at this tournament, as have Joe Ingles and Aron Baynes.
Patty Mills in particular has been huge this whole tournament and was again a key figure tonight. All week they've been calling him the "PM", as in the Prime Minister. That's hardly a fair comparison. He's obviously much more important than Scott Morrison, not to mention more watchable.
But in the end, Spain double-teamed him just enough to blunt him at the back end of the game, when it really counted.
The Boomers started the match slowly. They were 5-0 before you could blink and you feared it might be a repeat of the Rio Olympics bronze medal match -- when we lost to Spain by just a solitary point, yet somehow always seemed a bucket or two off the pace.
But we recovered. Near the end of the first quarter we led 21-17, before Spain got one basket, then another on the buzzer from three-point range to lead 22-21 at the first break.
Australia had the better of the second quarter -- Spain went almost five minutes without a basket at one point -- and we led 37-32 at the long break.
Our lead went out to as much as 11 points in the third quarter. But as has happened so often in this tournament, we failed to close out the period, and Spain brought the margin back to four at the final change.
55-51. Anyone's game.
Patty Mills got the first bucket of the fourth quarter. And Bogut at times was inspirational.
But Spain clawed their way back. The margin shrunk to just two. Patty Mills earned three free throws. Nailed 'em all!
Spain fought back again. Australia led 70-69 when a crucial moment occurred. Mills was pressured and lost the ball with 28 seconds remaining. The ball, in every sense, was in Spain's court.
Spain got two free throws. They sunk the first. 70-all. And the second. 71-70. With 8.7 seconds to go, Spain hit the lead for the first time since early in the second quarter.
Australia took a time out.
It had to be Patty from here. The PM. Australia's leader. And it was! Mills drove to the basket to earn two free throws.
He got the first! 71-71.
And missed the second, in what would turn out to be the turning point of the match.
Spain took a long-range shot in the few seconds remaining. Almost made it! But phew. We had overtime.
Spain scored the first five points of OT. Mills replied with a three. We needed that. Got the next too. 76-76.
Spain got one. 78-76. Ingles was fouled. He went to the line. Got 'em. 78-78.
Spain turnover. Boomers turnover. This thing had you chewing not just your fingernails but your fingers halfway up to the middle knuckle.
Fourteen seconds to go. Mills was fouled. Off to the line. The first one was good. The second too! Australia 80-78.
Four seconds to go. Spanish superstar Marc Gasol sank both. 80-80. And we were off to double OT.
Australia got the first. 82-20. Then 82-82. Then Nick Kay missed a lay-up. Then Spain sunk a three. 85-82. Delly tried for three after that but his radar had gone awry in the latter part of this match.
Another one for Spain. 87-82. Chris Goulding was subbed in. He shot two air-balls in his two three-point attempts.
Spain scored again. 90-82. It was all over. Too much to do for the Boomers now in too little time. And so it proved. Final score 95-88.
In the end, Australia will feel this was one that got away. It's sad to say, but we've all heard that before.
More to come.