A HARD-FOUGHT victory against Canada on Monday night has seen the Australian Opals secure a spot in the quarter-finals of the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup.
Canada presented itself as a tough matchup given its solid form coming into the game, while the Opals needed to be near flawless after a disappointing start against France. However, a spirited comeback has seen Australia claw its way to a thrilling three-point triumph.
The Canadians could not have started the game any better, firing on the offensive end and taking full advantage of a disappointing start from the opposition. The Aussies did not score for five straight minutes of the first period, and headed into the opening change trailing by nine points, not looking close to it in the second half of the quarter.
The second term was about as good as it gets from the hosts, completely flipping the game on its head with a dominant 10-minute period, during which they remarkably took the lead despite an underwhelming start to the game. The Aussies brought their trademark toughness to the game and a physical brand of defence brought Canada undone as the Opals led by five points at half time.
Once again, it was a game of momentum as Canada got back on top in the third with more ebbs and flows to come throughout the contest. It was a flashback to the first term, where Canada’s offence looked smooth and uninterrupted. The Canadians took a six-point advantage into the last change, but knew they needed more than that to secure the win.
As expected, the Aussies made a hell of a run in the final quarter, rallying behind the efforts of Eziyoda Magbegor to push themselves past Canada on the scoreboard at the halfway point of the period. It was a see-sawing affair in the dying stages of the game, as the Australian defence suffocated Canada and forced multiple turnover, during which the Opals were able to score on the fast break. Sami Whitcomb nailed a pair of big threes in the closing minutes to tie things up at first before giving her side the match-winning lead, as the Aussies snuck home.
Magbegor was the most impactful player on the court, pulling down some big boards in crunch time, and prevented a number of Canadian buckets in the fourth quarter. Her statline of 16 points, seven rebounds and five blocks is impressive, but probably does not justify how crucial she was to the final result. Whitcomb finished with 15 points, but her outing will be most remembered for the timeliness of her buckets.
Nirra Fields battled through some tough Aussie defence all day and managed to work her way to 17 points. She was vital in the first and third quarters when Canada made its run and can hold her head high despite the result.
In other Monday results, France was too strong for Japan, claiming a 14-point victory, while China continued to impress with a 35-point win against Puerto Rico.