WODONGA basketballer Trent McMullan and the Australian under-17 team claimed the silver medal at the FIBA world championships in Dubai after falling 99-92 to the powerful US team yesterday.
The Goannas threw everything they had at the two-time defending champions, taking an early 17-7 lead before being overwhelmed in the second half.
Even then, the Australians would not go away, cutting a double-digit deficit to just five points with under one minute to play.
But the US team hit its free throws down the stretch and held on to take a third straight world title.
McMullan, who played limited minutes in the gold medal match, said he couldn’t be more proud of the way the team fought to the end against the US.
“Yeah, the boys did really well,” McMullan said.
“It was a tremendous effort to get to the world championship final.
“To only go down by a few points was a real credit to the hard work we put in.
“I was happy with how I played but I’m just really proud of how we all went as a team and stuck together.”
McMullan saw game time in five of the seven games and enjoyed his best performance in the quarter-final win over Puerto Rico on Friday, tallying two points and three rebounds in nine minutes of play.
That the Australians even made the gold medal match was something of a minor miracle after an amazing come-from-behind win over Spain in the semi-final on Saturday.
The Goannas trailed by as many as 22 points in the first half and were still down by four points with under 30 seconds to play.
But two steals resulted in baskets to captain Tom Wilson to force overtime and the Australians then pulled away in the final minute of the extra period to claim a stunning victory.
“Yeah it was huge for the boys to come back from so far down,” McMullan said.
“It really brought us closer as a group after that and really made us believe we could match it with anyone.
“There was just great satisfaction to win that game.”
In a nod to their outstanding performances, star Australian duo Isaac Humphries and Dejan Vasiljevic were named in the tournament’s all-star five.
Humphries scored a tournament-record 41 points (with 19 rebounds and five blocks) against Canada in the third group stage game and averaged 18.9 points, 11.6 boards and 3.3 blocks overall.
Vasiljevic averaged 17.4 points and 6.6 rebounds, but saved his best for last, nailing 29 points in the gold medal game, including six three-pointers.
It was a tremendous effort to get to the world championship final. To only go down by a few points was a real credit to the hard work we put in ... I’m just really proud of how we all went. TRENT McMULLAN