The Australian Opals opened the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournament with a promising victory over Brazil on Thursday night.
Led by veterans Marianna Tolo, Bec Allen and Sami Whitcomb, the Australian Opals have claimed 65- 52 victory in a gritty win over Brazil.
The Opals hit the ground running with an 11-0 run – showcasing a new defensive identity that set the pace for the game.
Captain Sami Whitcomb quickly found her rhythm, scoring the first points of the game and wasting no time delivering a sensational step-back three to extend the opening margin.
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Taking a 16 point lead into the second term, the Opals relentlessly applied the defensive pressure, forcing the opposition into difficult shots. Only Marianne De Carvalho scored from the three-point line for Brazil before the third quarter.
On the offensive end, the strength of the Opals’ roster was on full display when Marianna Tolo came off the bench to deliver big, back-to-back points inside the paint when the team needed to maintain their lead. The team’s young-gun Shyla Heal also made the most of her minutes, scoring a three-pointer to secure her first points as an Opal.
Although she missed the training camps in Sydney, current EuroCup star, Bec Allen had an outstanding performance, finishing the game with six steals and 16 points. When asked whether having already qualified for the World Cup as host nation helped relieve any pressure from the game, Allen responded:
“It’s definitely a different situation (having already qualified), but it doesn’t change anything. We are on a road to get exactly where we want to be as a team culture-wise, we are playing hard every single game, every game we want to win and we also want to get better every single game. So even though we have qualified, that’s not even on our mind.”
While the Opals defensive efforts forced 24 turnovers from the Brazilian team, the Opals gave up 20 of their own.
On the results of the game, Head Coach Sandy Brondello said:
“I thought it was a good win for us. There are a lot of areas we can still be better at, but I was really pleased with our defence; it was an area we said that we needed to be better and that was a focus for us. We have to take care of the ball a bit better and we had some wide-open looks too, but for the first game, we’re just still trying to learn how it all works together, so I was happy.
“We talked about needing to be a great defensive team and improve on that area and a selfless basketball team on the other end, offensively. It’s about ball play and movement and finding good-to-great, which means getting a great shot every single possession. I think we did that, we didn’t shoot the ball well, we did have a lot of missed open shots and probably could have got a bit more inside, outside attack. We know defence is ahead of offense right now, which is fine. We know in the offense we’re going to keep getting better and better with more time together.
Australia’s next assignment is host team Serbia on Sunday at 7am AEDT.
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