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China coach Wei Zheng is raised aloft by her team after their World Cup semi-final win over Australia. Photo: EPA-EFE

FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022: China beat Australia in thriller to reach gold medal game v US

  • First medal for China in the women’s World Cup since 1994 following dramatic victory over the Australians in Sydney
  • It sets up a rematch in the final with the Americans, after China lost to them by only 14 points earlier in the tournament

China will play the United States in the gold medal match of the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup after pulling off a last-gasp semi-final victory over Australia.

They beat the host nation 61-59 at Sydney Superdome on Friday night in a thrilling encounter that was not decided until the dying seconds.

The Chinese did it without their star guard Li Meng, who was ruled out, with Chinese media reporting that she was suffering with fatigue.

In her absence, Han Xu, the 6ft 10in centre, starred for China with 19 points and 11 rebounds, as well as equalling the World Cup blocks record with five.

China’s Huang Sijing greets coach Zheng Wei as they celebrate their victory in Friday’s semi-final. Photo: AFP

The contest was still in the balance inside the final minute with the scores level at 59 apiece. But China worked the clock down, Huang Sijing was fouled and she sank both free throws.

It meant China advanced to Saturday’s final to play the US, who had reached their sixth gold medal match in seven editions by beating Canada 83-43.

There were joyous scenes at the end as the Chinese players lifted up their coach Zheng Wei and threw her in the air.

They are now guaranteed their country’s first medal in the women’s World Cup since 1994. To do so, they must win a rematch with the Americans, who China pushed the closest when the two teams played earlier in the tournament, losing by only 14 points.

At 59-59 with 46 seconds left, Cayla George missed a shot from the top of the key as the shot clock ran out, giving the ball back to China and setting up the decisive free throws for Huang.

Australia had one last opportunity, but Ezi Magbegor’s lay-up was short at the buzzer.

There was an electric atmosphere for the entire game as the crowd of nearly 12,000 fans were evenly split in cheering on both teams. Every basket drew a roar from one of the fanbases.

“The crowd was amazing,” said Sami Whitcomb, who led Australia with 15 points. “I think it lifted us the whole game. Even with the loss, we have a goal still in mind [of winning a medal].”

The game went back and forth with neither team getting more than an eight-point advantage. The fourth quarter kept the crowd entertained.

China give US a run for their money in front of watching Yao Ming

Han was dominant at both ends of the court. She helped take China to a 36-30 lead at the break with 13 points. Australia (5-2) hung around, though, and took the lead with Steph Talbot’s lay-up with 4:41 left. The game continued to swing until the last few seconds.

“I want more people to cheer for women’s basketball,” Han said. “I’m very happy because the World Cup is only once every four years, and tonight’s game was a great game.”