The Australian Opals have fallen short, 78-71, in a hard-fought battle against World Cup Qualifying Tournament hosts, Serbia
Despite a promising performance from the Australian Opals, Serbia used the energy of a home crowd to lift their intensity in the second half of the game to secure a seven-point victory.
In a thrilling game that featured a number of lead changes, the Opals put forward a fast and focussed brand of basketball that was eventually disrupted by Serbia’s shift in momentum in the third quarter.
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, the Opals weren’t able to take back the lead in the final minutes of the game, despite clutch threes from Bec Allen (15 points, eight rebounds, six assists) and Sami Whitcomb (18 points, six assists).
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Australia coach Sandy Brondello said it was a good learning curve for the team ahead of their final game against Korea.
“We’re obviously disappointed with the result. We were right there, for the last five minutes I think we just lost our composure and things didn’t go our way. Losing Talbot obviously hurt us but I think this is a game, with the new group, we are going to learn a lot from. Serbia just made plays, they got aggressive. We didn’t execute exactly how we wanted to, so now it’s just about learning from it and getting ready to finish strong against Korea.”
“In Sydney at least the fans will be on our side, so we will utilise that.”
Opals captain Sami Whitcomb echoed her coach’s sentiments.
“They (Serbia) were pressuring us a lot, I thought that lifted in the fourth (term) and I think fatigue set in for us a little bit. We lost our composure for sure and played into their hands and then we fouled on the defensive end too much and I think that played into their hands a little bit. Like Coach Sandy said, we will for sure learn from this, it’ll be a great opportunity for us to figure out how we need to get better for the next one.”
It was a fast start to the game from both teams, with defensive pressure intensely being applied at both ends. The Opals’ quickly forced nine turnovers and ran the floor well to convert 11 fast-break points.
Marianna Tolo, Tess Madgen and Darcee Garbin were critical players off the bench, maintaining the game’s fast pace and knocking down their open shots.
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 will next face Korea early Monday morning at 1am AEDT for their final World Cup Qualifying Tournament game. The game will be broadcast live across ESPN and Kayo Sports.
The FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 will be held at Sy
A hard fought battle but missed opportunities cost the Opals in the end.
🇦🇺: 71 🇷🇸: 78
— Basketball Australia (@BasketballAus) February 12, 2022
The Opals, who are automatic qualifiers alongside rivals Team USA, have medalled in five of the last six World Cups, including a gold medal in 2006.