The Australian Sapphires have defeated New Zealand 77-37 overnight to advance to the quarter finals of the U-17 World Championships.
Written by Liam Ellison.
The Sapphires finally got their shot to fall consistently for the first time during the world cup, as they went 10-22 from behind the arc. Shyla Heal continued her brilliant tournament with a 22 point performance which included 4-5 from deep. Heal is beginning to shape up as a genuine contender for the All-Tournament team and a possible MVP candidate.
The Australian’s began their stifling defence early, forcing the Kiwi’s into some poor turnovers. Coach Shannon Seebohm has had the girls playing intense defence all tournament, as the Sapphires have conceded an average of only 42 points per game in the tournament.
Heal began the contest knocking down a trio of threes to help the Australian’s out to an 18-2 lead. During the same time span the New Zealander’s had committed 6 turnovers, forcing the Kiwi’s to call a timeout. The break steadied the opposition momentarily as they limited the Sapphires to just 5 more points for the quarter, however the Australian’s still went into the first quarter break with a 23-7 lead.
The relentless defence from the Sapphires continued in the second period as they held New Zealand scoreless for close to 4 minutes at one stage. Lily Scanlon continued her form from the previous game, taking advantage of her speed and nous for cutting to the right spots on her way to scoring 16 for the game. At half time the Sapphires led comfortably 40-19.
After a slow start to the third period the game began to move in a similar pattern with the Kiwi’s coughing up the ball at a high rate due to the Sapphires intense defensive pressure. Shyla Heal added yet another three, this time from the corner to pace the Australian’s out to a 35 point lead at three quarter time.
Isobel Palmer’s playmaking skills were on showcase throughout the match-up as she registered seven dimes to go along with 10 points. Nnenna Agnes Emma-Nnopu was once again the engine room for Australia as she hustled on the boards and on the defensive end for Australia. She finished with 9 rebounds and 2 steals to go along with 8 points.
Shyla Heal was undeniably the star of the contest yet again for the Sapphires. The Australian co-captain finished with 20 points, including 4-5 from three. Lily Scanlon managed to hit two 3’s of her own on her way to 16 points as the quick guard troubled the Kiwi’s throughout the game.
The Australian’s shot at a 44% clip for the night while remarkably outscoring the Kiwi’s 35-2 with points off turnovers. The win sets them up for a quarter final against the same team the Sapphires beat in the 2016 gold medal game, Italy. The game will take place at 11:30pm AEST. Italy are coming off of a win over host-nation Belarus.
Australia 77 (Heal 20p; Scanlon 16p; Palmer 10p, 7a; Emma-Nnopu 8p, 9r)
New Zealand 37 (Leger-Walker 15p, 7r; Pupuke-Robati 8p, 3r; Kailahi-Fulu 6p, 7r)