Jayco Opals survive scare against Brazil
The Jayco Australian Opals have survived a tough test against Brazil overnight in France to secure a narrow 78-75 win, keeping their unbeaten pre-Olympic record alive.
Belinda Snell was sensational for the Aussies and showed why she could be a critical component in the team’s London campaign, dropping 28 points to lead all scorers, including an impressive 8 of 12 from down town. Liz Cambage finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, shooting 8 of 9 from the field.
The two teams met only recently in the Farewell Series in Melbourne and the Jayco Opals were dominant in that series, a trend that looked to be continuing early in this contest, with the Aussies dominating the first term, streaking out to a 25-9 lead at the end of the first.
The Aussies were aggressive, getting a number of early stops to ignite their running game, their defensive intensity on show again.
Brazil had gone with a zone defense in this clash and despite struggling to contain the Aussies in the first term, persisted with the approach and it started to pay dividends in the second.
They made up some ground, De Souza starting to find her feet in the paint. Although Belinda Snell was lighting it up from outside for the Aussies, which kept the Jayco Opals in front, the momentum had swung the way of the Brazilians, who were gaining confidence as the quarter progressed, the Aussies going into the change-rooms in front by 11 points.
The Jayco Opals lead dissipated in the third. Brazil out-scored the Aussies by 26-14 as the Brazilian zone defense was by now considerably frustrating the Jayco Opals offense. The Aussie bigs, including Cambage, Batkovic and Abby Bishop were active in the middle, but unable to convert. With all the momentum on their side, Brazil hit the lead late in the term, taking a 57-56 edge going into the final quarter.
With their backs to the wall, Belinda Snell continued to provide a scoring option from the perimeter. The game went basket for basket in the final stanza with the intensity a sign of things to come when the London tournament gets underway.
The Aussie guards started to find gaps in the Brazilian zone and penetrated to create scoring options. In an exciting finish, the Jayco Opals pulled cleared and secured the narrow 3-point victory.
“It was a great effort by the Jayco Opals to find a way to win that game. It was a intense game and that is what we need in our preparation for London,” said head coach Carrie Graf.
“Brazil played zone most of the game and this shut down our inside game, so it is critical that we were strong on the perimeter in offense,” said sharp-shooter Belinda Snell.
“Brazil played with a lot of energy and fire — they put the challenge out to us and we managed to step up tonight. I think they wanted to make up for the third match of the farewell series but we did really well to get the win,” she said.
The Jayco Opals now face France tomorrow morning [AEST] in France before heading into the village in the build-up to the London Olympic Tournament.
Jayco Australian Opals 78 (Snell 28, Cambage 24) defeated Brazil 75 (De Souza 24, Colhado 12)