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WUHAN (FIBA Asia Championship) – China have claimed their 15th FIBA Asia Championship and will head to their third straight Olympic Games in 2012.

To get there they had to survive a heart-stopping Final against an over-matched Jordan who simply outsmarted the home team for large parts of the game.

Ultimately it came down to the final moments and China did enough down the stretch to win 70-69 despite scoring only 11 points in the last quarter, with a solitary free throw from Yi Jianlian with 28 seconds remaining the difference.

Yi was outstanding with 25 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks, deservedly claiming tournament MVP following the game. Liu Wei scored 13 points for China, while Yi Li and Wang Zhizhi each scored 10.

For Jordan, Rasheim Wright was near unstoppable with 26 points at 53%, while Zaid Abbas (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Sam Daghles (10 points, eight rebounds and four assists) were their usual productive selves.

The game started as the chess match everyone expected, with Jordan changing defences almost every time down the court, and China guarding the paint with size and carefully selecting who they would leave open.

Wright scored the first seven points for Jordan to claim a 7-3 advantage after three minutes, but slowly China worked their way back, picking up five offensive rebounds on their way to a 16-15 quarter time lead.

Daghles scored six points in the first four minutes of the second period as Jordan went out by five, but a spectacular three-point play from Yi Li kept China in touch.

Jordan’s lead see-sawed for the remainder of the period until Wesam Al-Sous nailed two late jump shots to give his team a 36-31 advantage at the long break.

Liu, Yi and Wang all scored in the first 90 seconds of the third term to give China their first lead since quarter time and bring the 13,000-strong crowd to life.

That ripple threatened to become a tidal wave as Yi scored 11 points in the first six minutes and the lead reached nine.

Jordan responded in their composed and intelligent way through Abbas and Daghles, and it was a 59-56 game at three quarter time.

Yi Li and Wright exchanged triples to start the final term and the teams engaged in a tense, physical arm wrestle.

For more than two minutes neither team scored until both teams were whistled for controversial technical fouls.

Wright then hit two miraculous driving baskets before Yi Li drove down the middle for a jam.

Wright then tied the game away with a long shot clock beating triple and the game was tied at 69.

Yi Jianlian was then unwisely fouled in the backcourt with Jordan in the bonus giving him his chance to win the game.

He missed the first, then the second bounced around before dropping in.

Jordan had one more chance, Wright’s fadeaway was off target but Abdallah Abuqoura grabbed the offensive rebound and fed Dughles, whose teardrop was off the mark.

China celebrated on court to the thunderous approval of their fans, and now can prepare for the London Olympics.

Jordan lost no friends with their performance and will move on to the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaent with their heads held high.

Paulo Kennedy


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