London: Opals undone by USA
Australia has fallen agonisingly short of a spot in the Gold Medal game, going down to the USA 86-73, but will have the chance to come away with a Bronze Medal.
The Opals appeared set to record their first tournament win over the reigning Gold Medallists, leading at the main interval courtesy of a remarkable first-half showing from Liz Cambage.
The first-time Olympian was unstoppable at both ends of the floor, finishing the half with 19 points and five rebounds as the Opals led by four.
This sparked the USA into action and that Opals lead was quickly erased as the USA found their range, denied Cambage any second-half points and benefited from the absence of Jenni Screen due to a cut under her eye.
A 6-0 run to start the final quarter broke the back of the Aussies and despite the best efforts of Lauren Jackson, the Opals could not close the gap.
Despite going scoreless after half-time Cambage led all scorers with 19 points, while Jackson was tremendous with 14 points and 17 rebounds, and Kristi Harrower was again brilliant notching up 12 points.
The game provided a glimpse into the future for the Opals with Jenna O’Hea (10 points 3 assists) and Rachel Jarry (5 points 6 rebounds 5 assists) standing up on the biggest stage of their young careers.
It was a stuttering start for the Australian team, with some early nerves evident. These were quickly settled as Cambage and Jackson started to take control of the content.
In her first tournament Semi Final Cambage looked like she was born for the big stage, scoring an amazing 13 points in the opening stanza, with Jackson and veteran Kristi Harrower offering support.
It was the same to start to quarter two as the USA looked to their stars Maya Moore and Sue Bird to topple the Aussies, but Cambage was again unstoppable near the basket, finishing the half with 19 points and 5 rebounds.
The depth off the bench provided much-needed spark late in the half with tournament debutants Jenna O’Hea and Rachel Jarry coming up big at both ends of the floor.
This allowed for the Australians to lead at the main break 47-43 with the team shooting over an amazing 60 per cent from the field.
A different USA came out in the third period with their bigs looking to deny Cambage the ball in the post position, with the young Aussie going scoreless for the quarter.
Without this avenue to the basket the Opals struggled for baskets, allowing the USA back into the game and into the lead on the back of a 10-3 run to finish the quarter, handing the reigning Gold Medallist a six-point lead.
The momentum continued to build for the USA, with best efforts of Jackson unable to stop the lead from going beyond double figures.
The Opals now face the loser of the Russia v France Semi Final for the Bronze Medal on Sunday morning at 2:00am AEST.