Opals close out China series with big win
The Australian Opals closed out their three-game series against China on a winning note, with an impressive 69-59 victory on Sunday night.
In a brilliant defensive performance from the Opals, the home team struggled, with China scoring just 17 points in the second and third quarters.
It was an equally impressive offensive display from the Opals, with Marianna Tolo (team-high 14 points) one of four players in double figures for the visiting team along with Cayla Francis (12 points), Kelly Wilson (12 points and co-captain Belinda Snell (12 points).
The win ensured the hosts would not complete a sweep of the series after narrow victories in opening two encounters.
Opals Head Coach Brendan Joyce said the team’s effort and intensity during the second and third quarters was the catalyst for the first win of his coaching reign.
“The big thing with our performance was our ability to reach our targets we set out before the game,” Joyce said.
“Our defensive pressure and work on the defensive rebounding was outstanding and really set up the double-digit win against a really strong China team.
“The team did a brilliant job shutting down their interior scoring and forcing them to be a perimeter shooting team.
“To come away with a win and to be so close in the other two games was a great result for this group and I think we can take a lot out of the tour building towards the FIBA Oceania Championship in August.”
The Opals were without co-captain Jenni Screen after a heavy knock in Game Two, but saw the likes of veteran guards Natalie Hurst and Kristen Veal step up in her absence.
It was a high-scoring opening to the final game of the series, with the Opals claiming the lead 24-23 at the end of the first period.
The emphasis quickly turned to the defensive end in the second quarter, with Opals producing their best defensive period for the tour, holding China to just six points to lead 37-29 at the main break.
This exceptional performance on the defensive side of the ball was continued after the restart as the Opals pushed their lead out to nine points ahead of the final quarter, restricting China to 11 points for the third period.
A clinical final quarter display ensured the Opals would not see their hard-fought lead disappear and end the tour on a winning note.
Australian Opals 69-59 China
Scorers: Tolo 14; Wilson, Snell, Francis 12; Burton 8; Veal 4; Hurst 3; Camino, Madgen 2.
News Source: Basketball Australia