FIBA Asia Cup: Australia edges Lebanon in thriller to win title

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 24 2022 11:07 PM | Updated as of Jul 25 2022 12:02 AM

Australia remained kings of FIBA Asia. FIBA Media
Australia remained kings of FIBA Asia. FIBA Media

Australia weathered a fourth-quarter scoring rampage by Lebanon to win 75-73 and remain champions of the FIBA Asia Cup on Sunday.

The Boomers stormed out of the gates and looked ready to cruise to victory at Jakarta's Istora Senayan. 

But the Cedars followed star point-guard Wael Arakji's lead in the final 7 minutes to make it a game.

A split at the line by power-forward Rhys Anthony Vague and a miss by center Ali Haidar on a desperation heave helped Australia survive.

Meanwhile, New Zealand beat Jordan 83-75 in the earlier game to take third place.

NBA veteran big man Thon Maker finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, two steals and three blocks to pace Australia, which won wire-to-wire but was never comfortable ahead.

Guard Mitch McCarron added 12 points, and playmaker Tyrese Proctor chipped in 10, including two free throws that gave the Boomers a 74-70 cushion with 9 seconds remaining.

Arakji, Lebanon's heart and soul, then buried a 3-pointer off shooting guard Elie Chamoun's assist to make it 74-73.

Hoping to get possession back, Arakji was forced to foul, which sent Vague to the line where he split his free throws.

The Boomers built a 16-point lead midway through the second quarter, but they couldn't shake off the determined Cedars, who were in their first FIBA Asia Cup final since 2007.

They were up 64-49 with 6:05 left in the game when Lebanon started to heat up.

Lebanon found its range from long distance, then Haidar and Chamoun each scored a bucket as they cut the deficit to 72-65 with 1:34 remaining.

That's when the Cedars went to their MVP and leading scorer.

Arakji made two free throws after he was fouled by point-guard William McDowell-White from long distance, scored on a layup in Lebanon's next play, and sank the triple that kept the game's outcome in doubt in the waning seconds.

Arakji, who scored just six points at the half, finished with a game-high 28 points on 7-of-11 shooting from behind the arc and 8 of 15 overall from the field.

Haidar added 23 points for Lebanon, which entered the game with a 5-0 record, similar to Australia.