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Top 10 hoops moments Downunder in 2014 - Part 2
MELBOURNE (Paulo Kennedy's View from Downunder) - It's that time of the year again, so happy New Year to everyone. While we're on a break, have a read of my favourite moments of Oceania basketball from 2014.
Aussies won NBA, WNBA, Euroleague and Eurocup championships, national teams brought home a pair of world championship medals and we saw some impressive scoring sprees at local and international level.
Last week I counted down from 10 to six, now here are my top five basketball moment from Downunder for 2014.
5. Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips win the WNBA championship
So impressive was this duo in the Opals' superb run at the FIBA World Championship for Women, it's easy to forget they also played a key role in the Phoenix Mercury claiming the highest prize in women's club basketball.
Taylor, in her unassuming WNBA way, was clutch in the 3-0 Finals sweep of the Chicago Sky, average 11.3 points, six assists and five rebounds. While Phillips didn't have the same impact as in the regular season, her floor-spreading ability was still a key in getting the Mercury to the big dance.
4. Chris Goulding scores 50 points against Sydney
It's been a long time since we've seen an offensive explosion this good in Australia with the level of team defence these days, but over 7,500 people got a treat as Goulding hit threes, pull-ups, drives and did it all in utterly brilliant fashion.
Impressively, former NBA defensive tough man Sam Young took the job on 'Bubbles' early on but simply couldn't keep up with the slippery shooting guard, and fittingly it was a tough drive past Young and a deft left hand finish that brought up the 50 points. We miss ya Chris!
3. Corey Webster demolishes Lithuania
In a World Cup where blowouts were more common than nailbiters, my enduring memory will be that Lithuania v New Zealand Round of 16 match-up that went down to the tensest of final moments.
The reason the Tall Blacks had a chance to win was Corey Webster, who showed he belongs in the world's upper echelon of shot-makers with 17 unstoppable second-half points and tough shot after tough shot against the often impregnable Lithuanian half-court defence as he tallied a game-high 26.
2. Emus chase down Spain to secure medal
This was one late night that was well worth the sleep deprivation. When the Australian U17 team were trailing by around 20 late in the second quarter of their Semi-Final, I must admit I was close to choosing shuteye over shutdown.
But the way those boys held their nerve while charging back with such aggression, then hold the Spaniards off in a nerve-wracking end to regulation and then run away in OT is something they'll never forget. Neither will I, especially the sight of big Isaac Humphries charging down the court for the game-sealing slam.
1. Opals smash Turkey for world championship bronze
The Aussie women's dominant performance against the host nation in the Third-Place Game was nothing short of special, but really it was the cherry on the sundae of the most impressive tournament I've ever seen an Australian senior team play.
With the exception of the USA, no opponent could handle the Opals' hard-nosed aggressive defense. They couldn't do much about their irresistible push on offence either which, mixed with some stern Brendan Joyce-inspired discipline, made this team an absolute joy to watch.
Taylor, Phillips, Marianna Tolo, Laura Hodges, Leilani Mitchell, Rachel Jarry, Cayla Francis and Belinda Snell were the standouts, but the true star was the way every player on the team contributed. This made the Opals - even without Lauren Jackson and Liz Cambage - the second best team in the tournament. Bring on Rio!
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