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Heartbreak as medal ripped from Boomers' grasp

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They came closer than ever to an Olympic medal in Rio, but that was no consolation for a gutted Australian men’s basketball team.

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Matthew Dellavedova and several others broke down in tears as they walked away from a heartbreaking 89-88 loss to Spain in the playoff for bronze.

It was a cruel end to possibly their greatest Games campaign.

Leading by one point with 10 seconds on the clock, a late foul call handed their top-ranked European opponents a pair of free-throws and, ultimately, the victory.

Australia got one last play but couldn’t pull it off for a history-making medal.

It’s the fourth time the Boomers have finished fourth at an Olympics, having lost the same match – by much bigger margins – in 1988, 1996 and 2000.

For Spain, it was their third consecutive medal after winning silver in Beijing and London.

“I’m proud of our group and the way they’ve stuck together throughout this tournament,” coach Andrej Lemanis said, holding back tears.

“They deserved to be rewarded with a medal.

“There’s a lot of disappointment and heartache in that lockeroom at the moment.

“We didn’t get the result that we wanted and that we felt we deserved.”

epa05505072 Spain's Rudy Fernandez (L) and Australia's Joe Ingles (R) after Spain defeated Australia during their Rio 2016 Olympic Games Men's Basketball Bronze Medal Match at the Carioca Arena 1 in the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 21 August 2016.  EPA/JORGE ZAPATA

Spain’s Rudy Fernandez consoles Australia’s Joe Ingles after the game. Photo: JORGE ZAPATA / EPA

Patty Mills led the way with 30 points, a feat only bettered by Spanish superstar Pau Gasol (31 points).

Veteran David Andersen, in his fourth and possibly last Olympic appearance, finished with 15 points and five rebounds, while Ryan Broekhoff added 13 points.

“They’re a No.2 team in the world and we took it right to them, right down to the last defensive possession of the game at an Olympics,” said Mills.

“What more can you ask for? We asked a lot of ourselves and established a goal that we thought was very believable. We fell short and it’s the way things go.

“But coming out of this game and this tournament, is that it’s no longer belief in what we can do – it’s knowing that we can do it now.”

It was far from the one-sided affair that many had predicted after Spain’s red-hot performance in their semi-final loss to the USA and Australia’s shocker against Serbia.

Spain led 23-17 at the first change, but just two points separated them at half-time.

The Boomers stole the lead early in the third quarter and, from there, it was basket-for-basket up until the dying seconds.

Andrew Bogut didn’t play for most of the second half after being fouled out and was left fuming, claiming Spanish players deliberately dove into him.

Lemanis, too, believed the whistle played more than its part in the result.

“It is hard to swallow when they get their last four points off the foul line on what are not obvious, clear fouls and we’re having to create them from the field,” Lemanis said.

“That part of it is frustrating.”

Bogut, yet to decide whether he will play on for the green and gold, said there was no real positive to take out of the game.

“For other people, yeah, the top four is great,” he said.

“We’re disappointed not being able to make history for our country.”

-AAP

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