Opals take 2-0 series lead over Japan in another dominant display

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The Jayco Australian Opals have taken a 2-0 lead in their three-game series against Japan with an 84-64 victory at Frankston Stadium.

In almost identical fashion to Game 1, the Opals went on a 14-0 run spanning the first and second quarters to blow open the match, taking the score from 19-16 to 33-16.

Picking up from where she left off in Game 1, Steph Talbot started Australia on the scoreboard with an offensive rebound and basket but Japan’s hot shooting start saw them hit their first three field goals.

The Opals were intent on getting the ball down low to Suzy Batkovic and although she started just 1-5, she forced the opposition into fouls, scoring four from the free-throw line.

Mid-way through the opening quarter, Rachel Jarry saw her first court time in over 18 months after a knee injury and scored with two free throws of her own. 14 attempts from the charity stripe helped Australia to a nine-point quarter-time lead.

Fast break points for Sara Blicavs and Katie-Rae Ebzery (10 points) kick-started the game-changing run for the Opals and they maintained most of that advantage going into the half.

Coach Brendan Joyce was particularly pleased with that aspect of the game.

“I’m very happy with our execution offensively,” Joyce said.

“We’re pretty focused on trying to get perfection defensively because we know that we’ve got a great running game. If we get some rebounds we can really exploit teams with our transition.”

Seven more offensive rebounds led to an 11-0 edge in second chance points for the Opals at half-time while they held the Japanese to 1-7 three-point shooting.

Japan moved to a full-court press and a double-team on the ball carrier to start the second half but Australia were immediately wise to the move with Tessa Lavey (10 points, four assists) finding Talbot open for a three.

The visitor’s pressure began to pay dividends as they forced three turnovers for the quarter while Maki Takada (18 points) kept the scoreboard ticking over.

However, offensive rebounds continued to keep the Opals in control as they pulled down another five for the period to increase their lead at the final change.

Putting the icing on the cake of a triumphant return, Jarry (13 points, five rebounds, two steals) scored the first four Opals points of the fourth quarter and finished with six for the term while Elyse Penaluna became the eleventh Australian player to hit the scoreboard as the home side ran out comfortable winners.

Top-scoring for the second straight game, Talbot finished with 19 points and six rebounds while Blicavs recorded a complete game with 11 points, seven boards and three assists. Australia completely dominated the rebounds 47-26 while they finished 15-0 in second chance points.

“One of the pleasing things tonight was Steph Talbot backing up her big game,” Joyce said. “You hope that that’s going to happen with a younger player and she did that tonight. More-so was Rachel Jarry playing so well in her first game back.

“Right across the board there were contributions. Lavey was pretty good, Madge was fantastic again. It’s hard to play 14 players but we’re managing it.”

Box scores from the match can be found here.

The final match of the series will be played in Ballarat at 7pm on Friday night. Tickets are almost sold out but can be found here.