Devils take the home team to the wire and win 60 – 58.
The Australian Devils kicked off a crucial round game against China in some good form, carrying over the form and confidence from the way they finished off Germany in the fourth quarter.
Amber Merritt was back to her devastating best in the early stages racking up 12 points in the first quarter, with Georgia Inglis and Georgia Munro-Cook in support. Australia owned the first quarter and set the scene for what was looking to be a sweet runaway victory.
However, the Chinese team found some form in the early minutes of the second quarter through Xue Jing Chen and Jia Meng Dai and with Merritt collecting her second foul, the coaches needed to rest her. The China full court press was starting to pay some dividends via some poor Devils turnovers. The game was turning and with only a couple of minutes before half time the Chinese had tied it up 27 a piece.
Merritt and her low combinations with Ella Sabljak and Sarah Vinci steadied the ship in the final minutes, through some lovely pick and roll plays for the lows to finish tough baskets. Giving the Devils a 4-point half time lead 33-29.
Coming out after half time the game was in the balance but neither team was taking the initiative. The Chinese girls were the ones to take the game on and set the tempo, their full court press started to create some Devils turnovers and subsequent easy baskets. The China high pointers started to get on top, with their shots dropping they were building confidence and momentum, while keeping the young Devils to only 7 points.
China started the final quarter with an important 4-point lead and it continued to build on that lead in the first five minutes, they had the momentum and control of the game going their way but credit to the young Devils defensive efforts, were only holding a 6-point lead with four minutes on the game clock.
The Devils were under pressure and emotions were running high, the team was scrambling to stay in touch, but the squad dug deep coming out of a timely time-out, and through key baskets to Munro-Cook and Merritt started to chip away at the gap and were yet again hanging in there for a tight finish.
With two minutes to play the game was tied at 56-56.
Like the final quarter against Germany yesterday it was going to be the team with the best poise and team defence that would steal this win. Georgia Inglis and Sarah Vinci settled and made crucial baskets in the closing minute to give the Devils the smallest of buffers needed to take this fantastic victory 60 to 58.
This result sets up an interesting final pool match versus Canada, which currently sits on a 2-2 record. Should the Devils win this game and they will secure a second-place finish.