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Top 10 moments of Asia basketball in 2017
MANILA - Before 2018 emerges from the horizon, it would be fitting to remember and appreciate some of the best Asian basketball moments of 2017.
Here are ten memorable takeaways from the past twelve months of Asia region hoops.
10) Asia and Oceania unite.
2017 was a landmark year in Asian hoops, and one reason was the entry of Oceania teams into the fold. The two biggest and strongest teams, of course, were Australia and New Zealand, and boy did they make their presence felt early and often, practically shaking up the balance of power in this part of the basketball world.
9) Sapphires roll to first U16 Women's Asia crown.
A couple of months ago, Australia's U16 women announced their entry into the Asia region with a loud bang, sweeping all their games en route to their first ever U16 Women's Asia Championship diadem. They survived a gritty Japanese quintet in the Final, 61-60, thanks to the brilliant production of Isabel Palmer, who had 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists for the Sapphires.
8) India women dominate in front of home crowd.
India were among the biggest Asian hoops newsmakers of 2017, too. Their U16 women's national team clinched the Division B crown at the FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2017 in front of their supportive home fans in Bengaluru. They came out on top against Kazakhstan in a thriller of a game, 75-73, as rising star Jeena Skaria carried them with 20 points.
7) Akatsuki Five trip Opals for Women's Asia Cup title.
Over in Division A of the FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2017, many expected the Opals of Australia to run roughshod over the entire field, but the upstart Japanese had other plans. Even without iconic center Ramu Tokashiki, the Akatsuki Five women found a way to derail Australia's bigger and deeper team. Seldom-used Saki Mizushima caught fire at just the right time for Japan, hitting seven three-pointers to finish with 26 points, propelling the Japanese to a fantastic titular upset.
6) Syria returns to action.
An emotional side to Asian hoops was witnessed when Syria returned to action at the FIBA Asia Cup 2017 after missing the last two editions. The Syrians, once counted among the rising powers of West Asia, were not content to simply play, though. They made some waves in both the Asia Cup and Asian Qualifiers, registering twin victories over India and making teams like Jordan and China sweat. It was also sweet seeing scoring maven Micheal Madanly back in action.
5) Lebanese Tiger's last roar.
The Asia Cup had many noteworthy moments, but one that surely stands out is the final roar of Lebanese Tiger Fadi El Khatib. The 37-year-old did not just do a farewell tour, too. He bowed out the only way he knew how - by leading Lebanon and being nearly unstoppable. In his final international tournament, El Khatib remained peerless, leading the entire competition in scoring with 25.9 points per game and being named to the All-Star Five.
4) Boomers sweep Asia Cup.
As good as El Khatib was, however, it was clear that one team was a cut above the rest during the Asia Cup. The Boomers of Australia, despite not having their NBA talents, cruised to the Asia Cup throne, winning by all their six assignments by an average of nearly 29 points. It was a strong message from the newcomers that they meant business and that they had no plans of taking anything and anyone lightly. Mitch Creek was a revelation for the Boomers, finishing among the tournament leaders in field goal shooting and efficiency.
3) Asian Qualifiers tip off in style!
Another groundbreaking event that happened in 2017 was the inaugural window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers, which happened from 23-27 November all across the region. For the first time ever, sixteen matches were held in fourteen different venues, giving an unprecedented opportunity for fans to see their teams battle it out right on their home floor. It was a beautiful dawn of a new era in international basketball.
2) Upsets abound at Asian Qualifiers.
It also helped, of course, that upsets happened left and right at the Asian Qualifiers, further emphasizing the important of matching up, team competition and homecourt advantage. Korea kicked things off with a huge road win over fancied New Zealand, while other teams like Iraq and Jordan garnered big wins over their higher-ranked foes. These results gave fans a glimpse into the unpredictability of matches at the Asian Qualifiers and served as a wake up call for each country to not take any fixture for granted.
1) The FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 will be in Asia once again.
Maybe the jewel in the Asia region's cap in 2017 was the result of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 hosting bids. On one hand, Argentina and Uruguay had a strong campaign to host the quadrennial event in South America, but the combined might of the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia proved enough to sway decision to their side. Despite the fact that the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 will already be held in China, the hosting for the 2023 edition was awarded to the Asia region again - a testament to the potential for growth of the sport and the passion of its fanbase in Asia. This further highlights and deepens the relevance of the Asia region in international basketball.