The Australian Sapphires have stormed home to claim Bronze with a 26-14 last quarter to defeat Hungary 57-51.
Written by Liam Ellison.
Shyla Heal stepped up in the clutch with 14 last quarter points to lead the Sapphires to a come from behind victory. The Australian co-captain knew she needed to come up big for her team in the last period.
“I knew we were down and knew my team needed help and my team looks for me to step up in big moments, so I thought ‘it’s my time – let’s go’” explained Heal.
“We felt we should definitely have been in the Final, but we had a tough loss yesterday, so we thought we’d bring it back for Australia and fight our hearts out today.”
The first period was a low scoring affair as both teams struggled offensively. Isobel Anstey opened the scoring for the Sapphires after a perfectly placed half court pass from Isabel Palmer set her up for the lay-up. Moments later Palmer scored on a floater to give the Sapphires the first four points of the game.
The low scoring start to the contest continued as the score read 6-2 five minutes into the first period. Gemma Potter then converted on a three-point attempt to bring the lead out to 6 before Hungary went on a 9-0 run to take the lead back from the Sapphires. It took a late corner three from Lily Scanlon to give the Australian’s a 12-11 lead at the end of the first period.
The second quarter brought more offensive struggles for both teams as Australia won the quarter 7-6. Ashlee Hannan converted on a three midway through the period in a rare highlight for the Sapphires. The Australian’s suffocating defence had once again been a strength of Shannon Seebohm’s side as they held Hungary to just 17 points at half-time. However, the Australian’s own offensive struggles meant that they led by only 2 points at the main break.
It was the third period that the shots began to fall as Hungary managed to shake off the shackles of the Sapphires lock-down defence. The Hungarians began to control the rebounding battle with four offensive rebounds in the period becoming a catalyst for their 20-point third quarter.
The Hungarians began to sense an advantage on the interior, as they bounced out to a 29-23 lead. The Sapphires found themselves in the bonus with just over four minutes remaining in the period, however Hungary continued to hold their lead. At one stage the Sapphires trailed by as much as 8 points before Shyla Heal converted on a tough drive to the bucket to bring the score back to 37-31 as the quarter ended. Remarkably the lay-up was her first points of the game as the Australian co-captain began to heat up just in time.
The last period began with Shyla Heal picking up where she left off, converting on another tough drive to the hoop. However, after Aliz Varga hit a driving floater, Hungary was back out to an 8-point lead with 6:24 remaining.
The Sapphires needed a lift from somewhere and it was Shyla Heal who provided the momentum shift with a steal and fast break lay-up to cut the margin to six. Moments later Heal connected on a step-back three to bring the Sapphires within touching distance.
She had found her touch from long range as she again connected on a three, beating her defender with multiple jab steps to bring the Sapphires within two.
Hungary steadied, to cushion their margin back out to five but Shyla Heal could not be stopped as she again showcased her ability to finish tough lay-ups with a quick cut to the basket for a scoop-in layup, drawing the foul in the process for an and-one play.
When Jade Melbourne drew a charge on the next play, the Sapphires could smell a come-back victory. The 15-year-old Melbourne had seen limited playing time up until this point in the tournament, but she came up big time in the last period with several important plays.
Moments later Lily Scanlon drew the scores level at 47 apiece with a mid-range jump shot that got the Sapphires bench excited. Barbara Angyal then answered for Hungary with a lay-up, to bring her points tally to 16 for the game.
Leading by two points with just over two minutes remaining, Hungary began to step up the defensive intensity. Isobel Anstey nearly turned the ball over before Lily Scanlon drew a foul sending her to the line, where she made two from two.
As Hungary again replied on the other end with a bucket of their own, Scanlon came up with another big time play as she drove to the basket, dishing the ball off to Alexander Fowler for an easy lay-in.
The two teams could not be separated as Hungary again scored to bring the scores level with a minute remaining. However, Shyla Heal remained calm with a cool step-back jumper to again bring the Sapphires out to a 2-point lead.
The Australian’s then forced Nora Wentzel into a missed three but Hungary secured the offensive rebound much to the dismay of the Australian’s. Luckily Barbara Angyal missed on the next attempt as Alexander Fowler pulled down the defensive rebound, drawing the foul in the process. Fowler converted on both free-throws to give the Sapphires a commanding four-point lead with just 22 seconds remaining. From there Hungary failed to score on the offensive end as Australia closed out the game with two more free-throws to win the Bronze with a 57-51 victory.
Shyla Heal’s 14 last quarter points helped her to a total of 16 points for the game. Lily Scanlon managed 11 points while 10 different Sapphires players got on the scoreboard. For Hungary, Barbara Angyal led the way with 16 points while Nora Wentzel scored 10.
Notably, Shyla Heal was named in the FIBA All-Star Five for the Sapphires.
Later that night, USA won the tournament with a thumping 92-40 win over France.
Next, the Sapphires will return to Australia proudly in a few days’ time with their Bronze medals in tow.