NBL Boomers thump Iran to secure FIBA World Cup qualification
It was mission accomplished for the NBL Boomers as they locked in Australias place at the FIBA World Cup on Friday night.
A 76-47 win over Iran at Margaret Court Arena secured passage to next years World Cup in China in the nations first attempt at qualifying through Asia.
This campaign has been a triumph for the Boomers, Basketball Australia and the NBL as the locally based players followed coach Andrej Lemanis and built a program that won last years FIBA Asia Cup and posted an 8-1 record during two stages of qualifying despite most of the team having rarely played for the Boomers before.
These games have had a familiar tempo to them as the Boomers press, trap, run and rotate players constantly, looking to tire out their opponents and it has worked. This game was a case in point as they built their lead each quarter with five Boomers scoring eight or more points led by Daniel Johnsons 12 points.
Australias NBA and overseas-based players will fill the roster for major events including next year but the form and consistency shown by the likes of Mitch McCarron, Nathan Sobey or Nick Kay could see some of these players pushing for selection.
Despite a boisterous crowd of 5325, many of them cheering joyously for Iran, the visitors left four of their leading players out of this trip, led by former NBA centre Hamed Haddadi. They face the Philippines in Manilla on Monday and can lock in their own place at the World Cup so opted to rest their stars.
The Boomers have used 24 players during qualifying with only Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker the current NBA players to feature and then they only played two games. Now the Boomers have Mondays home game with Qatar and two away fixtures in February to close out qualifying.
Much like at the Philippines game at Margaret Court this time last year, Iranian fans were visually and vocally engaged from the tip-off as they looked to make the most of a rare chance to see their nation in Australia.
The support was deafening but the Boomers were in charge early, pressing and running in a way that quickly put the visitors on the back foot.
Nathan Sobey lead the way in attack with five points as Australia took a 15-8 lead while Todd Blanchfield entered the game and quickly had a steal and dunk.
Johnsons introduction late in the term also paid off as he scored a quick seven points, although Mohammad Jamshidis three from almost halfway was a highlight as the Boomers led 24-16 at quarter-time.
Iran threatened to cut the lead in the second term as the Boomers offence went quiet but that soon changed with Cameron Gliddon finding Nathan Jawai with a no-look pass for a layup, soon after Jawai had a dunk after out-wrestling Rouzbeh Arghavan under the basket.
David Barlow knocked down a three in his return to Boomers colours while Melbourne teammate Mitch McCarron did likewise as the Boomers led 43-24 at half-time.
The Boomers sensed their moment in the third term and took any hope away from Iran, winning the quarter 21-10 as Todd Blanchfield and Jawai started to find their groove, Blanchfield dunking the ball just on three-quarter time to take the lead to 64-34.
Barlow and Jawai were NBL opponents just weeks ago, but on this night they passed and moved like long-time teammates.
Melbourne United forward Craig Moller came on early in the fourth quarter to make his international debut and he scored within moments of hitting the court with his teammates cheering loudly.
The NBL Boomers will now hand the baton to their NBA brothers to try and take the country to a first ever World Cup medal.
The Boomers face Qatar at Margaret Court Arena on Monday at 7.30pm.
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.