In a fiery Oceania championship game one which erupted into two second half fights and led to New Zealand veteran Mark Dickel being ejected, the Boomers accounted for the Tall Blacks 91-78 in Melbourne on Wednesday night.
The win gives the Boomers a priceless lead in the best-of-three series which will decide a place at the London Games.
A physical men’s match which simmered from tip-off erupted into a melee with the game evenly poised midway through the third quarter.
Feisty Kiwi guard Dickel was at the centre of it as players from both sides got involved in some push-and-shove.
Another stoush between Australian forward Mark Worthington and New Zealand’s Casey Frank erupted soon afterwards, before more fireworks in the final quarter which led to Dickel being marched.
Dickel launched at Boomers rookie Matthew Dellavedova before Australian skipper Matt Nielsen then stepped in, pinning Dickel to the court before all players got involved and a flurry of technical fouls resulted.
But when the heat rose, the Boomers cooked – channelling anger into energy for a six-minute late third-quarter rampage which ultimately decided the match.
Worthington thrived on the drama, tipping in 13 points for the match and providing much of the late third-quarter offensive spark, and guard Patty Mills a team-high 20 points.
Nielsen was excellent in the second quarter as the match swung in the balance, while Joe Ingles and Brad Newley also did their bit in a grafting all-round effort.
Tall Blacks star Kirk Penney was exceptional for his side, with a game-high 30 points – 16 in the first half as they trailed by just two points.
OPALS TOO GOOD
And it rounded off a good night for Australia after another 13-point win to the women’s team, the Opals, over New Zealand to also move a step closer to Olympic qualification.
Both the Boomers and Opals now need just one more win in the series – either in Brisbane on Friday night or Sydney on Sunday – to book their spot at next year’s Olympics.
But unlike the Opals – who clearly have room to improve on their 77-64 win over the Tall Ferns earlier in the night – the Boomers were shown they will have to scrap every minute if they want to book their ticket for London.