The first edition of the frenetic, hyperactive game of 3×3 basketball at the Commonwealth Games came to an end on Tuesday evening as England defeated Australia 17-16 in the most dramatic circumstances. England triumphed with a game-winning two‑pointer in overtime to secure the first men’s gold medal of the Games.
Like the Olympics, which also ushered 3×3 basketball into its fold in Tokyo last year, the arrival of the event at the Commonwealth Games is reflective of the push towards a younger audience, with the aim to include more “urban” events.
Even though no participating country was able to qualify for the Olympics, 3×3 basketball has clearly made a positive impact on the Games, with handsome crowds since the early rounds at the Smithfield building site, a venue adjacent to the beach volleyball stadium.
The men’s and women’s wheelchair finals immediately preceded the non-disabled athletes, with full crowds present as Australia’s men edged past Canada 11-9, then Canada’s women beat Australia 14-5.
By the time the England men’s team entered the court, the atmosphere was searing. The players continually called for the crowd, which responded in turn, cheering for its team, booing Australia during their free throw attempts and making their presence known with an intensity not normally associated with Commonwealth Games sports.
The sport’s defining quality is its speed. Seemingly every aspect of the sport is cut down in size compared to traditional basketball in order to create an even more rapid spectacle. It is played out on half a basketball court with only one hoop to attack between the two teams of three, there are 12 seconds on the shot clock and matches won by the first team to reach 21 points, with the leading team winning if the games passes the 10‑minute mark.
The final that unfolded in Smithfield was physical and tough, with constant fouls and hustle alike. After six minutes the two teams had combined for 18 fouls, with Australia already over the 10‑foul limit, meaning every subsequent foul led to two shots and possession for England.
As both teams worked hard and nerves surfaced, the contest initially lent itself to a low‑scoring game. Shooting was off from both sides, and combined with some high‑octane defence it led to errors on attack. Throughout regular time, England found themselves playing catch-up to Australia, the clock ticking down.
But there was a flurry of scoring at the end, with England leading by 15-14 before Australia levelled with seconds to go, taking the game into overtime where the winner was required to win two points in a row. Australia took the upper hand and pressed for victory, leading 16-15.
Moments later, Australia’s two-pointer swirled around the inside of the rim and bounced out, Myles Hesson picked up the ball, shuffled outside of the two‑point line and the man from Birmingham buried his own two-pointer to mark himself and his team as the first 3×3 basketball Commonwealth champions.
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