In the curtain-raiser to the Opals and Tall Ferns clash last night, Australia completed a dominant performance at the FIBA Under-16 Oceania Championship, defeating New Zealand 75-54 in the gold medal playoff.
The 21-point victory took their average winning margin for the tournament to 71 points as they sailed through the week undefeated. The victory means Australia have qualified for the 2016 FIBA U17 Women’s World Championship in July.
After falling by 30 in their first meeting, New Zealand were defiant and momentarily grabbed the lead in the first and second terms before trailing by just one point at three-quarter time.
Ezi Magbegor proved the difference-maker though in the final period, out-scoring the opposition 11-7 by herself as Australia pulled away for a comfortable victory. She finished with an outstanding 23 points on 11-20 shooting to go with 16 rebounds (nine offensive) and five blocks.
Abby Cubillo chimed in with seven points in the final quarter to finish with 14 while the tournament’s leading scorer, Jazmin Shelley, collected 16 points and five steals in just 26 minutes.
New Zealand were led by 16 points from both Charlisse Leger-Walker and Tiarna Clarke but were out-scored as a team 46-20 in the paint while shooting 2-12 in the fourth quarter.
In the Under-16 men’s competition, Australia and New Zealand will play off for the gold medal at 2.30pm AEST ahead of the Boomers and Tall Blacks clash this evening.
Australia will need to overcome a loss to New Zealand in the pool games when the hosts used a 30-12 final term to run away with an 81-62 win.