Defence delivers as Opals move one step closer

SOME massive defensive plays down the stretch has helped the Australian Opals to a five-point win over Brazil in the first game of the 2024 Olympic Qualifying tournament on Friday morning AEDT.

With the game in the balance late, multiple stops ensured the Opals held on despite an effort from the opposition that was inspired at times.

The result sees the Aussies one step closer to securing a spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics, with Australia now setting its sights to taking on Germany on Sunday morning.

Brazil (55) def. by Australia (60)

It was a close contest to start the game, and despite the fact that the Opals jumped out to an early five-point lead, Brazil showed that it was here to play, and evened up the ledger in quick fashion. The two teams traded baskets until the Aussies got the upper hand with a three-point buffer at the first break.

Scoring dried up in the second term, with a combination of inaccurate shooting and suffocating defence playing a big part in this. A combined 21 points were registered for the term, but it was mostly Australia breaking through for some handy buckets. At the main break, the Opals led by 10 points, and were in full control of the match.

Despite trailing by a hefty margin, Brazil drew on the energy of the crowd and delivered a fired up performance in the third quarter. The home side poured in 24 points in the term, and cut the deficit to just two points heading into the final period. It was a display of how effective Brazil can be if not defended properly, and was a clear sign to the Opals that they would need to lift.

It was once again a low-scoring quarter to finish the game, with both sides eager to clamp up the opposition. With less than a minute to play, it was game on with the Opals holding a three-point lead. However, consecutive blocks and a late transition basket saw Australia hold on to win by five points in a ripping contest.

Delivering some match-winning plays down the stretch, Eziyoda Magbegor was the star of the show, recording 18 points (7/9 FG), seven rebounds and four blocks, including two in the final minute of the game. Bec Allen was also impressive with 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Cayla George nailed a clutch triple that was important in getting Australia to victory.

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