Australians everywhere have blown up as the Opals suffered a heartbreaking two-point defeat to China after a controversial refereeing call at the death, putting their Olympic campaign in jeopardy.
Australia was outplayed for the entire game but a clutch three-pointer from Jenna O’Hea with just over two seconds remaining levelled the scores at 74-all and sparked hopes of a miracle win.
An inbounds pass from China then found a player under the rim, and Cayla George was ruled to have fouled with less than one second on the clock despite it appearing the Chinese player lost possession without any infringement.
The call itself was enough to spark outrage as the Aussies protested, but the plot thickened when it was alleged the official closest to the play let things slide, only to be overruled by another referee standing much further away from the incident.
Channel 7 commentator John Casey couldn’t believe his eyes.
“That was such a late call … I don’t know that I can see a foul there,” he said. “And the referee, he had very good position. As you can see, he sees nothing and another referee has made the call inexplicably.
“That’s heartbreaking for Cayla George.”
China drained both resulting free throws to go up 76-74 and the Aussies had no time left to throw a Hail Mary.
The Opals are now 0-2 after losing to Belgium first up, and are in danger of being knocked out in the group stage. If they lose to Puerto Rico in their next start, they’re gone. Even if they win they might not progress.
The Aussies need to thump Puerto Rico and hope they’re among the two best third-placed teams in order to keep their medal hopes alive.
There are three groups of four teams each in the basketball draw. The top two in each group automatically advance, while the bottom team in each group is eliminated. Two of the three third-placed teams will scrape through to the next round, depending on who has the best for-and-against record.
That means the Opals will need to pile on the points against Puerto Rico to give themselves the best chance of being among those third-placed teams lucky enough to stay alive.
Australia cries foul over ‘robbery’
Fans watching on from Down Under were fuming. Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze posted a broken heart emoji and said: “That’s not the way a game should end!”
Celebrity chef Migue Maestre tweeted: “We just got robbed in the basketball!!!!!!!!”
Wheelchair tennis star Dylan Alcott added: “That ref will be looking for a job next week. Brutal call put the whistle away.”
Australian cricket star Megan Schutt said: “Hope the ref uses that bribe money well, cause I didn’t see a foul. Ridiculous finish.”
Former Australian men’s cricket star Brett Geeves wrote: “The ref called that foul from the tuck shop!! What a horror show.”
Journalist Ben Waterworth said: “You. Are. Kidding. If Casey’s call was right and the referee who wasn’t closest made that (very late) call, what an absolute shemozzle.”
The official Twitter account of band Flight Facilities also joined the pile-on. “Don’t know much about basketball but: One ref is standing 2ft away, and has a front of view of an incident, and doesn’t see a foul. Another ref, further away, whose view is obscured by the players facing the other way, sees a foul,” they wrote. “Explain?”
Sports reporter Mark Gottlieb tweeted: “How does that ref call that from there?!!!! That’s a travesty. That’s the same ref who called the unsportsmanlike foul earlier too. What a joke.”