WUHAN, Hubei province - Take that, doubters.
China coach Bob Donewald answered a summer of criticisms with a thrilling victory in the title game of the FIBA Asia Championship.
"It was a long summer," Donewald said after the game Sunday night.
"One month ago, many of you didn't think we would be here. A lot of people doubted us. But my team will go to London."
To prepare for the must-win tournament, the host team survived a taxing 30-game warm-up schedule over the summer and came in as somewhat of an underdog.
After the narrow final victory over Jordan, Donewald was finally able to shake off the pressure, and gave credits to his players.
"Big thanks to my players," the 41-year-old American said. "I am lucky to coach all 12 of them. They are a fun bunch of guys to work with. I hope we make the fans proud. It was a tough summer, but with a great ending."
Under Donewald's guidance last year, China advanced into the World Championship's top 16 with only one group victory and claimed the Guangzhou Asian Game title.
China got some help in Wuhan when its toughest potential challenger, Iran, was shocked by Jordan in the quarterfinals.
Donewald paid tribute to his team's commitment to defense and its new leader, Yi Jianlian.
"He brought a high level of intensity, as well as incredible skills both inside and outside," Donewald said. "He loves to play defense and drove the whole team to do a great job guarding opponents."
Hu Jiashi, vice president of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), admitted this championship was "most difficult" to win due to Yao Ming's retirement and a large number of injuries.
The CBA maintained faith in the coaching staff, and all the work paid off, said Hu.
Even with the victory, Yao, who was hired by CCTV to be a commentator for the event, urged the CBA to reinforce its youth cultivation system to prolong the nation's dominance in Asia.
(China Daily 09/27/2011 page24)