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10 October 2019 | in FISU University World Cup - 3x3

Buzzer beaters and underdogs emerge from Oceania for 3x3 world finals

Picture courtesy: UniSport AustraliaYou know when you beat the buzzer in the final of a fiercely contested tournament, you have what it takes to go all the way. And that’s what Maddy Norris and her squad from University of Technology Sydney now expect from themselves at the FISU University World Cup – 3x3 that takes place in Xiamen, China, later this month.

 

The UTS girls’ qualification for the University World Cup finals was the stuff sporting dreams are made of. In the Australian national finals that served as the continental qualifier, UTS convincingly beat tournament favourites and cross-town rivals University of Sydney. Then, in the grand finale against Monash University, the UTS girls found themselves four points down with two minutes to go.

 

“That’s when things started to fall into place,” says a delighted James Ang, basketball administrator at UTS. “Thanks to consecutive shots from Maddy Norris, the game was tied with only 20 seconds left. Monash then missed their shot and with only five seconds left Maddy was given the ball in the post and did her signature spin move and hook shot to win the game on the buzzer.”

 

Now, all four women who helped UTS qualify are headed to China to play in the world finals. The team is looking forward to the entire experience, including soaking up the local culture.  

 

“The opportunity to experience a new culture as well as play basketball for a week is something that I would never have imagined in my university career,” says Ali Burke, who is among the quartet that is heading to Xiamen.

 

The team is used to playing with each other, although not necessarily in this format.

 

“The entire 3x3 basketball scene is really new to me and the team,” says playmaker Maddy Norris (right). “We have grown up playing 5 x 5 basketball and it is great to be learning another aspect of the sport. We have been training three times a week with one added gym session, as we have noticed that physicality is one of the major factors and we expect it to be very physical in Xiamen.”

 

James Ang agrees. “A goal we set for the team was to be competitive and not go into this competition underprepared,” he says. “With the help of a strength and conditioning coach the girls have really picked up their fitness to compete in these tough 3x3 competitions.”

 

All four of the UTS ballers have been involved with University Nationals over the past three years, and they already jell well as a unit.

 

“Growing up, I have played with and played against these girls in my team so there is a level of mutual respect among all of us from just knowing each other through the basketball circles,” says Ali Burke. 

 

Macquarie 3x3 squad. Picture courtesy: UniSport AustraliaAlong with the squad from Lincoln University of New Zealand, the UTS team will be flying the Oceania flag high at the finals in Xiamen and really taking a shot at the title.

 

Their counterparts on the men’s field are city compatriots from Macquarie University. Eromon Uadiale, Cooper Wilks, Ciaron Fitz-Gerald and captain Jayden Prakash will take to the half-court that is familiar territory to them. Cooper Wilks is heading for his third FISU University World Cup – 3x3 finals, while Jayden Prakash and Ciaron Fitz-Gerald will be in action in Xiamen a second time. They know what to expect – from the event and from each other.

 

“The players have been together during the Australian pro hustle as well as Big Hustle events in Spain and Switzerland,” says team manager Chris McKibbins. “We have just come off a 12-week programme in which all members participated in the Australian Unisport Nationals in 5x5 and make up 4 members of the starting five. They have lots of playing time together as well as travelling as a group.”

 

Macquarie progressed through the pool stages of the Australian University 3x3 Hustle with some tough wins, including a semi-final against Monash University of Melbourne and the final against University of Newcastle. Although Newcastle had a strong presence with experienced Waratah Championship players, Macquarie’s 3x3 experience was enough for them to win comfortably, 18-8.

 

“The final was a complete performance where all four players had played extremely well,” adds McKibbins.

 

“Now we are really looking forward to a match up with the Otago University team from New Zealand as Oceania rivals,” McKibbins reveals. “But also, the opportunity to play against one of the home teams in China. It’s a wonderful chance to share the court with teams from New Zealand, China and Uganda in our pool.”

 

The University of Otago will be represented by Matthew Bardsley, Darcy Knox, Joe Ahie and Josh Aitcheson – for all of whom the 2019 Finals will be a first experience.

 

Otago made it through a tough national qualification, where they fell to defending champions Auckland University in the pool stage play. But, upon encountering Auckland again in the final, Otago made a few changes and came out on top with a dominant performance, earning the opportunity to represent New Zealand at the University World Cup – 3x3.

 

“Our best match was that final win against the defending champs, Auckland University” says team coach Mitchell Langton. “And now the team is looking forward to the high level of basketball to be played in Xiamen, as well as the cultural aspect.”

 

“Already being close friends and spending time together means there is no need for the team to worry about being a unit,” adds Langton, indicating that the squad from Otago is ready for the big challenge at the world finals.

 

The FISU University World Cup – 3x3 2019 Finals begin on 31 October and the men’s and women’s finals will be contested on 3 November.

 

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