ROAD TO THE WORLD CUP
The Opals headed to Belgrade, Serbia, from 10-13 February 2022 to compete in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournament (Qualifying Tournament), drawn into Group A alongside Brazil, Korea, and the tournament’s host nation Serbia.
Although the Opals automatically qualified for the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup as host nation of the flagship event, the team participated in three games in Belgrade, Serbia, to identify seedings for the World Cup fixture.
Selectors combined a mix of Olympians and FIBA Asia Cup bronze medallists to represent the Opals in Serbia alongside two Opals debutants – Shyla Heal and Maddy Rocci, who were added to the line-up after stellar WNBL performances.
The Opals took on Brazil in the first game of the tournament. The team came out hungry and took an 11-0 lead in the opening minutes. Led by veterans Marianna Tolo, Bec Allen and Sami Whitcomb, the Australian team showcased a new defensive energy. The Brazilian side struggled with this defensive pressure and ended the game with 24 turnovers. These mistakes proved costly for Brazil, with the Opals taking a gritty 65-52 win.
The Opals lost 71-78 to host nation Serbia in their second game of the tournament. It was a hard-fought battle for the Opals, forced to play without the experience of Steph Talbot, who was ejected from the game in the second term after being called for a flagrant foul. Yvonne Andersson (30 points, six rebounds) was instrumental for the Serbian side, challenging the Opals on both ends of the floor.
The game results saw Serbia secure a ticket to the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Sydney.
The Opals secured a comfortable win over Korea in their final game of the tournament. Cayla George had an excellent performance, topping the stat sheet with 15 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Opals debutant Maddy Rocci oozed with confidence as she dealt out two quick assists and nailed a three within her opening minutes.
The Opals finished 2nd in their group behind an undefeated Serbia. Captain Sami Whitcomb was rewarded for her standout performance with an All-Star Five selection. Yvonne was named MVP of the Serbia A Qualifying Tournament.