The Australian Boomers and Opals are off to comfortable starts at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, winning their opening games of the group stage against Canada and Mozambique respectively.
Boomers vs. Canada
Australia had a distinct age advantage against Canada whose oldest player is 24 while the Boomers’ youngest, Mitch Norton, is 25, and that experience eventually won out as the home side cruised to a 95-55 victory.
Every player received significant court time but coach Andrej Lemanis was able to share the load with only Jason Cadee and Cam Gliddon exceeding 20 minutes.
That also helped 11 Boomers hit the scoreboard, paced by a game-high 14 points from Daniel Kickert who shot 5-7 from the field while Chris Goulding (ten points, six assists, two steals) and Brad Newley (ten points) joined him in double-figures.
Nathan Sobey and Angus Brandt owned the glass, collecting ten-point, 11-rebound double-doubles each and while Damian Martin was the only Aussie not to score, he still contributed two rebounds, an assist and two steals while putting his body on the line for several charges.
His perimeter defence was also indicative of the Boomers’ performance overall, restricting Canada to 5-23 long-range shooting while Australia out-scored them by 21 points from distance.
Newley and Sobey brought the energy off the bench after Canada started the game with a couple of confidence-building plays and a 15-0 run to end the first quarter sparked by those two Boomers set up the victory.
Jesse Wagstaff was also integral with seven points and he hurt the opposition with a couple of sneaky back-door cuts, set up by Cadee (six points, three boards).
17 turnovers would be a concern moving forward and with an 18-point edge at half-time, Australia’s play became a little sloppy during the third quarter but in the end, the Boomers were able to counter those errors with 21 points off Canada’s turnovers.
They also tallied 22 assists for their 31 field goals as they look to fine-tune their performance before facing New Zealand tomorrow night at 9pm AEST.
Find the box score here.
Opals vs. Mozambique
The tone was set in the opening moments of the Opals’ first game with Liz Cambage scoring inside the first six seconds before Cayla George (seven points, 11 rebounds, five assists, two blocks) knocked down a three-pointer on their way to a 113-53 drubbing.
That front court combination controlled proceedings at both ends of the floor with the two forwards also recording monster blocks.
Jenna O’Hea (14 points on 4-4 three-point shooting) then joined in offensively, draining two three-pointers and Belinda Snell (15 points, three assists) capped the impressive opening stanza with a long buzzer-beating triple from beyond the arc.
Mozambique were impressive when they were able to get their running game going and they showed no fear of shooting the three-ball but that was mainly instigated by Australia’s presence in the paint.
With a 20-point lead growing in the second term, coach Sandy Brondello (in her first game on the sidelines for Australia) was able to give court time to every player before the main break and history was made when Ezi Magbegor scored her first points in an Opals uniform.
The lead continued to balloon in the second half as Cambage (a game-high 24 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three blocks) truly stamped her authority on the game with a couple of massive blocks while at the other end of the floor, she was simply too big when sealing a low-post position.
Kelsey Griffin (six points, nine rebounds, five assists) contributed in her return to the team after her MVP-performance at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup and then Steph Talbot (11 points, three assists, two steals) and Steph Blicavs (eight points) hurt Mozambique in transition as Australia’s domination off the bench proved to be the icing on the cake.
Magbegor (ten points, four boards, two steals, three blocks) was able to add a couple of late buckets before fellow debutante, Nicole Seekamp (seven points), scored her first points in the green and gold as well.
Every Opal hit the scoreboard, tallying a very impressive count of 36 assists to help shoot 58% from the field and 12-26 (46%) from downtown as a team.
In similar fashion to the Boomers, no team member had excessive court time with every Opals playing under 20 minutes and that will keep them fresh as they head towards a clash with Canada on Sunday following a rest day tomorrow.
Find the box score here.
Australian Boomers and Opals Schedule at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (all times AEST):
April 7: Boomers vs. New Zealand at 9.00pm
April 8: Opals vs. Canada at 6.30pm
April 9: Opals vs. England at 5.30pm
April 9: Boomers vs. Nigeria at 9.00pm
April 13: Opals Semi-Finals at 6.30pm or 9.00pm
April 14: Boomers Semi-Finals at 10am or 12.30pm
April 14: Opals Bronze (6.00pm) and Gold Medal (8.30pm) Games
April 15: Boomers Bronze (9.00am) and Gold Medal (12.30pm) Games