LONDON (Olympics) - Another Olympics has come and gone for basketball, a sport that took center stage in London.
At the Summer Games, the appetite for big-time international hoops was huge, both for the men's and women's tournaments.
Players fed off the energy in the Olympic Basketball Arena, and the North Greenwich Arena.
Tickets were a hot item.
Even when games had 9am starts, or tipped off after 10pm, there were, as they say in Great Britain, bums on seats.
There were some blowouts, but close contests were the norm.
The United States reigned supreme for the second Olympics in a row, but both sides had to clear significant hurdles.
For some of the teams, the summer was extra long because of the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in Ankara, Turkey (women), and Caracas, Venezuela (men).
Turkey, France, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Canada entered the women's field after competing in Ankara, while Russia, Lithuania and Nigeria made it to London from Caracas.
Nigeria’s progression meant that for the first time, Africa had two teams in the men’s Olympic tournament.
They joined Afrobasket champions Tunisia in London.
The qualifying tournament clearly helped Russia.
Their men cut down the opposition in Venezuela like a scythe slicing through wheat, and in London, they overcame all opponents before falling to Australia on the last day of the Preliminary Round.
Turkey, France and especially Canada appeared to benefit from the women's qualifiers.
Basketball will be remembered in London because of spectacular plays.
Australia were involved in three.
The Opals' Belinda Snell made a shot from beyond half-court, one that travelled more than 16 meters, at the buzzer to force overtime against France in the Preliminary Round.
Opals center Elizabeth Cambage dunked in another Preliminary Round encounter against Russia.
Pat Mills hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Boomers victory over Russia.
Before that, Russia had won a thrilling encounter against Brazil when a closely-guarded Vitaliy Fridzon drilled a three-pointer from the left corner just three seconds from the death.
France had their moments, including one that Celine Dumerc provided when nailing a long three-pointer at the buzzer in overtime for a victory over hosts Great Britain in the women’s tournament.
Great Britain’s basketball teams won a combined one game, yet they were in several close contests.
“I think the British (men’s) team didn't let us down,” said FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann.
“It's always hard to come to the Olympics for the first time and even try to win a game.
“They won a game (against China) but also they lost very narrowly in a couple of other games (to Brazil and Spain) and they will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come and certainly given that the financing will continue for the next four years, they should have a good chance qualifying for Rio 2016.
“That's something very positive because having basketball grow in this market is something we've all been looking forward to.”
The bronze-medal game in the men’s tournament between Russia and Argentina could not have been any closer.
Alexey Shved drilled a go-ahead three-ball with 37 seconds to play for Russia, and David Blatt’s team then survived a frantic finish.
Manu Ginobili and Pablo Prigioni trapped Fridzon at midcourt, and Ginobili came up with a steal.
The ball ended up in the hands of Prigioni, who dribbled but then had the ball taken away by Shved.
Russia added a Fridzon basket before time expired for an 81-77 victory.
“I was next to him and he got fouled,” Ginobili said.
“Refs are human and of course you get upset. But it's part of the game.
“Before that, I fouled Fridzon on a three-point shot and they didn't call it and we were not complaining about that one.”
One of the best women’s games in the knockout round came when France fought back from a double-digit deficit to stun the Czech Republic.
The United States also trailed Australia in the Semi-Finals after Cambage scored 19 first-half points, yet the Americans won that contest.
The men’s tournament had several thrilling encounters, including Quarter-Finals between Spain and France, Lithuania and Russia and Argentina against Brazil.
Spain had to come from behind to defeat Russia in the Semi-Finals while in the gold-medal game, the United States were behind in the second half against Spain but eventually won, 107-100.
Kevin Durant had 30 points for the Americans in their win.
“We've had amazing games at nine in the morning,” Baumann said.
“There have been great games.
“It wasn't clear who next to the USA would go to the Final seeing how Spain played during these two weeks.
“No one could have guessed for sure it would be the remake of the Final in Beijing.”
Fans were able to see a high level of performance from many teams.
“Certainly the technical level in the men's tournament is even better than Beijing,” Baumann said.
“I think that's visible for everyone.”