Opals thump Tall Ferns to win Oceania Championship
Australia's women's basketball team has shown no mercy against the Tall Ferns at the AIS Arena in Canberra, downing New Zealand by a commanding 40 points to clinch the 2009 FIBA Oceania Championship for Women, 97-57.
Winners by fifty points in the opening game, Australia led by twenty-five at half time in the second and deciding game and were not threatened in the second half as they locked up a berth at the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women in the Czech Republic.
Canberra favourite Jess Bibby [Hear AUDIO] scored 19 points to lead Australia while eighteen year old sensation Lizzie Cambage [Hear AUDIO]used all her 203 centimetres to make the Tall Ferns look small.
Cambage tallied 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go with 5 rebounds in 16 minutes of play before leaving the game midway through the third quarter with a back twinge. Bulleen forward Elyse Penaluna [Hear AUDIO]had 10 points in support while Captain Alicia Poto [Hear AUDIO] had 9 points and a game high 9 rebounds.
Toni Edmondson, who top scored for New Zealand in game one with 19 points, had the clamps put on her by the Opals and finished with a team high 11 points.
Opals head coach Carrie Graf [Hear AUDIO]was satisfied with her team’s performance and happy to have Australia’s name on the World Championship ballot.
“We came in to this unsure what team New Zealand had and had they had a big compliment of their Olympic players I think it would have been a much closer contest,” Graf said.
“Tonight our process was better, the winning margin wasn’t as big, but we improved on some things that we weren’t happy with in game one.
“We were clearly bigger and we shot the ball well from outside but the bottom line is we had to tick all the boxes and now we’ve qualified for the Worlds.”
Poto, Richards, Wilson, Grima and Cambage started for the Opals and it was Cambage scoring twice in the opening minute to put Australia up early. Cambage scored her seventh point in less than three minutes before Hurst and Grima connected on back-to-back three pointers to give Australia a 16-5 lead after less than five minutes of play.
When Cambage was subbed out Penaluna kept the inside scoring going with four quick points and when Bibby finished a four point play when 2:13 remained in the quarter the Opals were up by seventeen, 24-7. New Zealand then scored the next eight points to get back in the game before Foley drained a three on quarter time to put Australia ahead by twelve after one quarter, 27-15.
Bibby got things rolling with a three pointer to open the second quarter and she scored her ninth point of the half soon after before Penaluna kept the scoring going close to the basket.
Hurst and Foley then opened up from long range, with a toe on the line the only thing stopping three three-pointers in a row to put the Opals up by twenty six with two minutes remaining in the half.
Cambage scored in the dying seconds of the quarter to give Australia a 53-27 lead at half time, with Cambage pacing all scorers with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Bibby and Penaluna had 9 points apiece as the Opals led the rebound count 17-10.
Two minutes elapsed in the third quarter before Grima and Cambage combined to put the Opals up by thirty points but despite good opportunities Australia iced up from the field to give the Tall Ferns a sniff. But New Zealand could not convert the chance and after three quarters of play Australia led by thirty one points, 72-41.
Poto got things rolling in the fourth quarter with her second three-pointer of the game and when Wilson and Poto repeated the medicine two minutes later Australia had put on a 10-2 run. The Tall Ferns scored the next five points and continued to battle hard in the fourth quarter to restrict the winning margin even though the result was never in doubt.
The Opals were without Beijing Olympian and reigning Women’s National Basketball League Most Valuable player Rohanee Cox who tore the meniscus in her left knee in game one but showed great depth to overcome her withdrawal, with eleven of 12 Opals scoring.
Australia shot 33-of-71 from the field with 14-of-38 three pointers compared to New Zealand’s 17-of-53 and 3-of-19 and won the rebound count 40-28.
Quarter by quarter:
1. AUS 27 NZL 15
H. AUS 53 NZL 27 (26-12)
3. AUS 72 NZL 41 (19-14)
F. AUS 97 NZL 57 (25-16)
AUSTRALIA 97 (Jessica Bibby 19, Liz Cambage 18, Elyse Penaluna 10) bt
NEW ZEALAND 57 (Toni Edmondson 11, Kate McMeekan-Ruscoe 8, Natalie Purcell 8, Suzie Bates 8, Lisa Wallbutton 8)
at AIS Arena in Canberra
Australia wins 2009 FIBA Oceania Championship for Women 2-0
Photos by Guil Hornos for Kangaroo Photos