The Australian under-17 Sapphires began their World Cup campaign with a clinical 81-43 victory over FIBA Africa runners-up Angola.
Written by Liam Ellison.
Georgia Amoore came out firing, hitting a corner three to put the Sapphires up 7-2 early in the first. Amoore led the way for the Sapphires in scoring, finishing with 16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal.
Isobel Anstey made her presence felt in the first period with a commanding block and impressive intensity on the glass. Anstey finished the contest with six boards, with three of them offensive.
Angola’s Cristina Lourenco had to be carried off towards the end of the first quarter with what appeared to be a knee injury. She could not return for the rest of the contest. Despite this, Angola looked competitive early, but failed to capitalize at the free throw line, going 2-8 and in the process allowing Australia to a 21-9 first quarter lead. Poor free-throw shooting was a story of the night for Angola, as they went 13-28 (46.4%) in the game. However the Sapphires did not excel at the free throw line either, managing 63.3% for the game.
It was a slow start to the second period for both teams as they failed to execute on the offensive end. However the last 5 minutes of the second half saw a scoring frenzy for both sides. Angola managed 10 points in that time, while Australia exploded thanks largely to the work of Ashlee Hannan who had 7 points in the second period alone. The Sapphires also began to hit their shots from downtown with Shyla Heal, Isabel Palmer and Lily Scanlon all knocking down second period triples to give Australia a 43-20 lead at the half.
The Australians continued their dominance in the third period, opening the second half with an 8-0 run, forcing Angola to call an early time-out. At times the Sapphires were drawn into giving away unforced turnovers during the third. However they persisted with their strong defense, going into the last period with a 63-32 lead. Notably the Sapphires had managed to keep Angola to just 24% shooting from the field through the first three quarters.
The Sapphires kept on building their lead at a similar rate in the fourth period. The Australians continued their aggressive defense, forcing the Angola side into turnovers. Shyla Heal led the way for the Sapphires in this department, amassing 4 steals for the game. The Australian co-captain also managed 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in the contest. Ashlee Hannan registered a near double-double with 12 points and 9 rebounds while Nnenna Anges Emma-Nnopu stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, 7 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
The Sapphires face Latvia tonight in their second Group D game at 12:45am AEST.
Catch the FIBA livestream on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVH0vnN96aY