Jackson sparks Aussies; advance to semis

BEHIND a vintage Lauren Jackson performance in the first half, the Australian Opals have advanced to the semi-finals of the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup after defeating Belgium 86-69 on Thursday night.

In the elimination match, the Aussies have managed to keep their season alive with a strong team performance, but the momentum was sparked by Jackson, who turned the clock back with eight points in the first half, lifting her teammates to a match-winning performance.

The Belgians were always going to be up against it given Australia’s current form, and felt the full force of the Opals in the opening quarter, which essentially set up the final result.

The host side got off to a blistering start, with their offensive sets looking fluent and causing headaches for the opposition. While Belgium were getting reasonable looks, their execution was not quite right, and the Opals took a 10-point lead into the first break.

Belgium’s offence lifted in the second term, finally knocking down the good looks its passing created. Unfortunately, the Aussies were able to keep their noses in front with some big shots coming from behind the arc, as the likes of Tess Madgen and Jackson began to heat up. The Belgians’ deficit was extended by five heading into the second half.

Quarter number three was quite reflective of the first, with the Aussies now bringing their trademark harassment on the defensive end. Belgium was held to just 11 points for the quarter, and the result was put beyond doubt. At the final change of play, the Opals led by 24 points and looked set to cruise home to victory.

Belgium managed to fight back a bit in the last 10 minutes of play, as the Aussies took the foot off the pedal a bit and rested some of their key guns. With the result secured and a semi-final spot booked, the Opals were able to ease up in the dying stages of the contest, on their way to a 17-point triumph.

Opal Cayla George top scored for the match with 19 points (8/15 FG) to go with nine rebounds in a dominant showing. She was a monster in the paint, and also chimed in for a bucket from behind the arc. Jackson’s 12 points were massive in the context of the game and her career as a whole. At 41 years of age, she continues to impress and defy expectations, and her teammates lifted as Jackson nailed a massive three from behind the arc.

Julie Allemand was Belgium’s best in the loss, fighting through the ruthless Aussie defence to finish with 15 points on 6/12 shooting to pair with seven rebounds in a terrific final performance of her campaign.

In the other quarter final results, the United States did as expected and cruised past Serbia, Canada grabbed an early lead against Puerto Rico and never looked back and China was simply too good against France.

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