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.
In the women’s gold medal match, Canada narrowly edged out England after another dramatic ending, winning 14-13 with a buzzer beater from Canada’s Sarah Te-Biasu to take the gold medal
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 it 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 game 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.
Between the furious, high-octane defence and the nerves that accompanied the occasion, both teams committed offensive errors and scoring was low. But then the game exploded.
First Jaydon Kayne Henry-McCalla buried a clutch two-pointer to give England a 15-14 lead with 20 seconds to go but Daniel Johnson drew Australia level for 15-15 with 10 seconds remaining, ushering 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, a layup from Jesse Wagstaff moving them to 16-15.
Johnson’s two-pointer swirled around the inside of the rim, Australia seemed to have done it. But the ball swirled back out, prompting Orlan Jackman to leap into the air for a rebound, swiping it behind him.
The ball found Myles Hesson, from Birmingham, who shuffled outside of the two‑point line, lined up his shot and buried the two-pointer to mark England as the first 3×3 men’s basketball Commonwealth champions.