GEMS SHOOT PAST MALI INTO SEMI-FINALS

GEMS SHOOT PAST MALI INTO SEMI-FINALS

The Gems are on their way to the Semi-Finals at the FIBA Under-19 Women's World Cup in Thailand after beating Mali 63-51. In what was yet another physical test for Australia Gemma Potter played a terrific game. Potter scored a game-high 18 points in 18 minutes of court time thanks to a steady barrage of threes.

Written by Oliver Kay.

Early on in the game, it was clear Mali was going to present the Gems with some challenges.

Agnes Emma-Nnopu got into early foul trouble, picking up two personal fouls only three and half minutes into the game. Her premature exit would hurt Australia's rebounding for the remainder of the quarter.

Mali's size and length gave Australia some real problems under the glass, traditionally an area of strength for the Gems in this World Cup. Mali soundly beat them, winning the rebounding battle 19-12 in the opening quarter.

After some terrific early defence from the Gems, Mali's slashers began to find gaps. With their drives and some nice shooting Mali came storming back into the game.

Mali's defenders also did well defending the Gems guards and denied them space to operate and find their shots. It was Australia's bigs that were able to do some damage. Isobel Anstey and Alexandra Fowler did some damage in close, while Gemma Potter threw in a three-pointer as a nice curveball. All three finished with five points and carried the Gems to a 15-12 lead after the first period.

It didn't take long for the action to get going in the second quarter. Mali continued their aggressive playstyle with a quick three-pointer to kick things off. Not to be outdone, Isabelle Bourne instantly responded with a three-pointer of her own.

From there, things continued to get interesting. Mali's defenders went into attack-mode against Australia's ball handlers, and their quick hands made the passing lanes a dangerous place for loose balls. Their pressure caused some bad turnovers from the Gems.

With Emma-Nnopu back in the game, the Gems began to fight back on the rebounding front. She gave Australia multiple second-chance opportunities and allowed Australia to control the pace.

Emma-Nnopu was an all-around star for Australia in the second period. As well as her rebounding (she finished the half with five) she also scored six points.  Isabelle Bourne also got in on the action scoring her first five points of the game in the second quarter. Thanks to their heroics the Gems held onto their lead at the end of the half,  28-25.

In the third quarter, the game began to open up for the Gems. After a quiet second quarter, playing just over a minute, Potter reignited. Her three-point shooting ability was on full display and her long bombs kept coming at just the right moments, often halting Mali's scoring runs.

The Gems were also able to keep Mali out of sync with their ability to draw fouls. Australia was able to get to the line eight times but was only able to convert on three occasions. However, the fouls did their job and Mali's frustration appeared to grow, leading to more clumsy fouls.

Mali put together a late 7-0 run in the period but a Bourne three-pointer put a stop to it. The Gems went into the final break comfortably ahead, 43-36.

The Gems saved their best for the fourth quarter. The tone was set early with some terrific defence forcing a shot-clock violation in the opening possession of the period, thanks to a terrific block from Alexandra Fowler.

The Gems backed up their defence with relentless scoreboard pressure at the other end of the court. In the end, it was a resounding win for Australia and their third double-figure victory of the tournament.

Full box score here.

The Gems will play either China or Spain in the Semi-Final tomorrow, at a time to be announced.

The Australian Gems Schedule for the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup (all times AEST):

July 20: Gems def by. USA 79-56.
July 21: Gems def. Hungary 81-71.
July 23: Gems def. Korea 78-59.
July 24: Gems def. Colombia 62-53.
July 26: Gems def. Mali 63-51.
July 27: Semi-Finals TBA
July 28: Medal Games