The CPA Australia NBL All-Australian Team has lost the opening game of its three-match Tour of China on Wednesday with Team China holding on for a tense 68-66 victory in Beijing.
The NBL All-Australian Team started strongly to open an 18-10 lead by late in the first quarter and were still up against the hosts by a point at half-time despite having gone to the free-throw line just twice.
From there little separated the two teams throughout the second half with Team China’s six-point lead with 40 seconds remaining on the clock the biggest of the second half.
But a Jeremy Kendle steal and lay in with 22 seconds left kept the NBL representative team alive and just two points down. A couple of free-throws for China saw the hosts up by four before Jerome Randle made two at the line after being fouled attempting a three.
He deliberately missed the third but it didn’t come off. Again, though, the All-Australian team had one more opportunity after forcing a turnover with 1.9 seconds. Jesse Wagstaff’s in-bounds pass didn’t connect with Daniel Kickert, though, and Team China held on to win 68-66.
Kickert top-scored for the NBL All-Australian team with 18 points and five rebounds. He hit 4-of-6 from downtown.
Randle added 13 points for the visitors, Todd Blanchfield eight and Kendle seven.
Wu Qian starred for Team China with 25 points on the back of 7-of-8 from three-point range.
NBL All-Australian coach Rob Beveridge was proud of his team’s efforts.
“I thought it was just a wonderful competition between two nations that are looking to prepare for the Asian Cup,” Beveridge said.
“We are both at the start of a lot of our preparation and I was extremely happy with how we competed in the game despite losing.”
It was a fresh-looking CPA Australia NBL All-Australian featuring the likes of rising stars Mitch McCarron and Nick Kay, NBL stalwarts Wagstaff, David Barlow, Kickert, Blanchfield and Tom Jervis.
Then there is Lucas Walker back as a full contracted player with the Perth Wildcats for 2017/18, Kendle who is looking for a home for the upcoming season and they are all led by Adelaide 36ers superstar Randle.
They started strongly too and led 18-10 with just over two minutes left in the first quarter on the back of a triple from Kendle.
The Australian team only went to free-throw line twice in the entire first half and while China had a plethora more trips, the visitors did well to lead 32-31 at half-time.
Consecutive three-pointers for China to Qian saw the home team take the lead midway through the third quarter. But scores were tied at 44-apiece heading into the fourth term.
Both teams had their chance to build potentially match-winning leads in the final period. The first chance went to the All-Australian line-up who led by five after five quick Kickert points with 3:22 remaining.
A couple of bizarre offensive foul calls soon changed that and Team China went on an 11-0 run to lead 64-58 with 40 seconds left.
China then led 64-58 but the Australian side wasn’t done with yet. New Sydney King Blanchfield nailed a triple and then Randle made one at the line. By the time Kendle pulled off a steal and scored, the margin was just two with 22.4 seconds remaining.
Team China hit a couple at the line to steady but then Randle was fouled attempting a three with 4.6 seconds left. When he air balled the third while trying to deliberately miss, the game looked over but China turned over the in-bounds pass.
But the NBL All-Australian team couldn’t capitalise with Team China winning the opening game with the second to be played on Friday night and third on Sunday.
CPA AUSTRALIA NBL ALL-AUSTRALIAN TEAM 66 (Daniel Kickert 18, Jerome Randle 13, Todd Blanchfield 8)
TEAM CHINA 68 (Wu Qian 25)