The Australia Opals have shown incredible fight and spirit defeating the USA Women’s team- for the first time in 11 years- by three points in an exhibition match earlier this morning (AEST), claiming the win 70-67.
The Opals were dominant early, as Steph Talbot hit a high flying three pointer within 15 seconds of tip off, quickly followed up by the first Ezi Magbegor goal of her 17-point stand out contribution to the match.
However, the USA just as quickly clicked into gear and got the ball moving on their own terms, setting up a defensive structure that halted the Opals’ swift scoring ability and balancing the game to a dead lock quarter time break.
Although the Opals had their opportunities in attack, it was inaccuracy that cost them in the second quarter, missing 8/9 three-point attempts and allowing the USA to carry momentum to half time with a 13-point lead.
Led by Ezi Magbegor, the Opals’ second half switch was flicked as the comeback began. Slowly but surely, the girls were able to narrow down the lead, capped off with a clutch Cayla George three-point shot on the three-quarter time buzzer to close the gap to a five-point game.
An all-defense mind-set was key to maintaining the USA in the fourth, with the girls standing up in big moments sealing the win. From Leilani Mitchell hitting a big three point to put the Opals in front, to Katie Ebzery’s defensive intercept resulting in a Steph Talbot goal. Bec Allen’s aggression was evident, while Cayla George’s intensity lifted in the second half.
Coach Sandy Brondello was impressed by the comradery displayed by the girls.
“We haven’t played together as a team for about 18 months, and we have to make sure we can adapt to any style we’re playing.”
It’s not every day you get to beat USA.”
Sandy also expressed her confidence in Ezi Magbegor after her stand out performance.
“We have upmost confidence in Ezi, you got to believe it yourself, bet on yourself a little bit. She’s learning against some really great players over there (Seattle). She’s a big piece of what we’re doing.”
The Opals will now prepare for their travels to Tokyo.
Ezi Magbegor: 17pts, 5rbs, 3stl
Bec Allen: 11pts, 5rbs, 2blks
Steph Talbot: 10pts, 4rbs, 2ast, 2stl
Jenna O’Hea: 9pts, 2rbs, 2ast
Cayla George: 7pts, 2rbs, 3ast
Leilani Mitchell: 6pts, 3rbs, 5ast