Opals off to a flyer in China tour

THE AUSTRALIAN Opals won the first game of their 2024 China Tour on Wednesday night, defeating the home nation by two points in a thrilling contest.

The Aussies headed abroad to take on China in three games throughout the week, as the Opals gear up for another exciting campaign at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The first match took place in Benxi City, with China also looking for a warm up ahead of the most exciting sporting event on the calendar, and would host one of the best sides in the world to see where it was at.

It was a tight affair to start the contest, with China driving inside and taking it to the Opals for the majority of the first term, holding a two-point lead at the first change. That trend continued, although the Aussies fired from behind the arc to remain in the contest, with proceedings tied up at half time, as both sides looked to find their groove.

The home nation took charge in the third period, with China hitting some crucial baskets to close out the term and take a six-point lead into the fourth and all of the momentum. However, Australia’s class came to the fore in the final 10 minutes, as the visitors stormed home to take the lead late and hold on for a 72-70 win to start the trip in style.

China was left to rue missed opportunities at the free throw line, with Australia’s physical style of play resulting in plenty of trips to the charity stripe for the hosts. However, they left plenty of free points on the board, which came back to haunt them in the slim loss.

Once again, Lauren Jackson was the star of the show for Australia, defying age to finish the game with 17 points and six rebounds as she gears up for another Olympic campaign, while Isobel Borlase (14 points, 6/10 FG) and Maddison Rocci (eight points, four rebounds, three assists) stood up late to deliver some crucial plays in Australia’s 9-0 run to retake the lead.

The two sides will meet again tomorrow night in Shenyang City in what could be another exciting encounter.

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