20/05/2024
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All we learned from FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2024

DEBRECEN (Hungary) - After the pressure cooker of a trifecta of Olympic qualifying events, with the highest possible stakes on the line, the final coveted tickets to Paris were won and done. 

Let's recap an unforgettable FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2024 in Debrecen. 

Powerhouses France and Lithuania flex muscles

In the men's, top seeds Lithuania and France had fallen agonizingly short of clinching tickets previously. This was the final chance, but they handled the pressure brilliantly to underline their favoritism. 

It is quite fitting that the two hoops powerhouses - who both have iconic Olympic basketball moments - will now get a chance to compete in 3x3 at the Olympics for the first time. 

No.1 seed Lithuania stumbled against Germany - as super talented teenager Fabian Giessmann had a breakout party -  in pool play, but they did enough to progress.

The lethal Lithuanians found the radar when it mattered most with a beatdown of Spain before booking their ticket with a comfortable win over Poland.

Lithuania relied on, you guessed it, Aurelijus Pukelis who was a walking bucket with 35 points in 5 games to underline his class and experience. 

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He was one of the very best players in Debrecen, but no one was better than France's Thimote Vergiat who led his country to glory with an MVP performance.

France had arguably the most pressure of any nation because it would be a bitter blow if they didn't qualify for a home Olympics. 

Like Lithuania, France had a hiccup in pool play after losing to dangerous Spain, but it did not shake their confidence. They were pushed to the limit by a youthful Germany in the quarters only for Jules Rambaut to be their hero with the two-ball in OT. 

But France were then in a major struggle against Mongolia with a ticket up for grabs. They appeared to be on the ropes like Tyson Fury only to stage an epic comeback.

After being down 19-15, France stormed back as Vergiat landed the decisive blows like Oleksandr Usyk to go bang, bang as Les Bleus got the ticket to Paris that meant so much more than just merely returning to home. 

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Germany and Spain step up

These European heavyweights were highly fancied in the women's draw and they did not disappoint. 

No.1 seed Germany have long been formidable, but over the years had mixed success in major tournaments. They were extra motivated to silence the critics and did so in style.

It wasn't easy with Germany scraping into the ticket game with OT Ws over Poland and Japan before stunning the home fans with a thrilling victory over Hungary after Svenja Brunckhorst called game with a Maurice Lacroix Buzzer Beater.

Germany needed their star Sonja Greinacher to deliver an epic performance and she came through with a domination of the paint to secure her country's first ever 3x3 Olympic ticket. 

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Spain, too, have been one of 3x3's dominant women's forces but missed out on the Tokyo Olympics in heart-breaking fashion. They were extra motivated and produced a sizzling style to storm into a match-up with powerful Canada with a ticket at stake. 

The intimidating Plouffe sisters gave them all they could handle, but Spain took the punches and landed a few blows of their own in a classic. Gracia Alonso was their hero with the Maurice Lacroix Buzzer Beater as Spain vanquished the ghosts of the past. 

Spanish 3x3 great Sandra Ygueravide played one of the best games in her storied career to add to her incredible legacy. 

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Poland and Canada show poise 

It all boiled down to the final ticket in each gender. It came down to not only skill and talent, but composure under pressure. Poland (men's) and Canada (women's) showcased the characteristics of champions to achieve their goals. 

Poland were the 11th seed of a loaded men's draw, but made a mockery of that with a stirring run, which included thrilling Ws over Japan and Belgium, who both performed well at the Tokyo Olympics. 

Poland then nudged out Austria to get into the ticket games. They shrugged off a loss to Lithuania by defeating Mongolia after a Maurice Lacroix Buzzer Beater from Przemyslaw Zamojski, who once again stood up on the big stage. 

He was again the Pole who stole the show, but he had plenty of support with Michal Sokolowski and Adrian Bogucki splashing all tournament long. 

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It appeared that fate might not be on Canada's side after repeatedly coming up short. But surely a team that had won almost every major tournament would not miss their Olympic ticket?

Of course not as Canada overcame their defeat to Spain with a thrashing of host Hungary to finally secure the ticket they believed belonged to them. As expected Michelle and Katherine Plouffe proved they were the best one-two punch in 3x3. 

They could have raffled the MVP - No.1 player Katherine won it - as the siblings once again dominated in sync as they sang 'Oh Canada' all night long. 

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Heartbreak for Mongolia and Hungary 

While the winners celebrated in ecstasy, those who failed to grab a ticket were left with the bitter realization that they'll have to wait four long years to make their Olympic dreams a reality. 

No team will feel more disappointed than Mongolia (men), who lost two ticket games in OT. Delgernyam Davaasambuu left everything on the half-court in Debrecen to showcase why he is a hero in his 3x3-crazy country, but it wasn't quite enough. 

It was much the same story for host Hungary (women), who could not rewrite the script having endured despair in the same event three years ago. Virág Kiss and Klaudia Papp were a dynamic duo, but it was familiar disappointment for the Hungarians and their passionate fans. 

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Debrecen was an incredible venue again 

It is with good reason that Debrecen always delivers. The beautiful Hungarian city is often trusted with putting on a show as host of major 3x3 events and this was no exception. 

The passionate Hungarian fans were again out in full force and made their presence felt as Debrecen added more 3x3 memories to its growing collection. 

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