The Australian Rollers have put together an exceptional second half to defeat Iran 68-57 and earn the bronze medal at the 2018 IWBF World Championships.
Following a closely fought first half, Iran began to pull away in the opening minutes of the third term and following a few costly turnovers from Australia, Iran had opened up a game-high six-point lead.
The Rollers had also missed a couple of three-pointers but Tom O’Neill-Thorne (nine points, seven assists, two steals) was able to get the Aussies going with a long-range bomb and that sparked Bill Latham and Jannik Blair (eight points, seven rebounds) to hit the scoreboard as well.
At the other end of the floor, Australia’s team defence was outstanding and where Iran were getting open looks just a minute earlier, suddenly the Rollers were plugging every hole and not allowing anything easy for their opponents.
That tight defence also benefited the Aussies’ offensive game and Kim Robins was the recipient, leaking out for consecutive fast breaks to give the Rollers a buffer on the scoreboard.
Playing with supreme confidence after seeing a couple of shots go down, Robins (10 points, two steals) then scored two more baskets in a row, including an acrobatic spin while almost falling over.
That made it a 13-0 run for the Rollers and gave them a double-digit lead at three-quarter time.
Australia’s momentum forced Iran to panic and they began the fourth term with some hurried possessions which the Rollers were easily able to snuff out.
They continued to fire on all cylinders offensively, gifting the likes of Latham, O’Neill-Thorne and Shaun Norris (six points, five assists) with easy lay-ups as the run extended to 25-1 and the Rollers had one hand on the bronze medal.
A couple of late three-pointers trimmed the deficit for Iran but the damage had been done as Australia clinched a convincing victory.
The Rollers’ defence was on song from the opening tip, restricting Iran from hitting a field goal for the first three and a half minutes while Latham (17 points, seven rebounds, six assists) knocked in the first five points of the game.
Once they finally got a shot to fall, Iran were able to get themselves into the contest but foul trouble gave the Aussies some easy points from the charity stripe.
Sam White (four points, three boards) and Tristan Knowles then came off the bench to keep up the scoreboard pressure and give the Rollers a one-point edge at quarter-time.
Iran truly found their rhythm in the second period, putting together a 7-2 run which was capped by a three-pointer.
Brett Stibners (four points, four rebounds, four assists) responded, getting out in the open court and Knowles (eight points, five assists) then scored with a brilliant fake on his way to an uncontested lay-up.
That helped Australia put together an 8-2 run to end the quarter and stay within two points at half-time before they set up their victory with a blistering 21-9 third term.
The bronze continues the Rollers’ incredible run at the World Championships, having earned a medal at each of the past four tournaments including gold medals in 2014 and 2010.
Knowles and Norris have been a part of every one of those sides while it is Stibners’ and Latham’s third medal and the second medal for Blair, O’Neill-Thorne and Luke Pople.
The Australian Rollers Results at the 2018 IWBF World Championships:
August 17: Rollers vs. Argentina (W 74-55)
August 18: Rollers vs. Spain (W 66-56)
August 20: Rollers vs. Netherlands (L 53-58)
August 21: Rollers cross-over game vs. Brazil (W 73-54)
August 23: Rollers quarter-final vs. Poland (W 83-70)
August 24: Rollers semi-final vs. USA (L 59-84)
August 26: Rollers bronze medal vs. Iran (W 68-57)
By Basketball Australia
Photo with thanks to MSSP Michael Schwartz / Uli Gasper