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Tayla-made victory for Gems sets up semi final berth


Australia’s U19 Women’s national basketball team, the Gems, are through to the semi finals of the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship, after beating Japan by nine-points in their quarter final match-up today, 92-83

Gems centre Tayla Roberts was devastating, finishing the game with a tournament high 41 points and 17 rebounds as the Aussies put together an impressive second half to seal victory, and a guaranteed shot at a medal.

Gems playmaker Rebecca Cole was also impressive all over the floor, finishing with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.

Japan has been a surprise packet this tournament, and today was no exception, showing the Gems early that they had come to play. The opening term was tight from the tip, neither team able to gain the ascendancy until late in the period.

There were signs early that Roberts was going to pose problems for Japan, dropping 11 first quarter points, as the Aussies snuck away in the dying minutes of the first period to record a handy six-point buffer at the first break.

But the Japanese side hit back, Shiori Takada and Rui Machida striking from range as Japan cut Australia’s lead to one within the first two minutes of the second term, taking a slender one-point lead mid-way through the period.

Japan continued to pull the trigger on the three-point shot, and it was paying dividends, with Takada and Machida continuing to strike from range, with Aoi Katsura also connecting to see Japan out to as many as five points in front in the second period.

The Gems settled just before half time, eight quick points from Rebecca Allen, Gretel Tippett, Aimee Clydesdale and Tayla Roberts had the lead back to one at the long change.  

A high scoring third term saw the Aussies slowly get on top of this contest. Japan continued to impress from distance, but still couldn’t find any answers for Tayla Roberts, who was gaining in confidence with each bucket made. 

With Rebecca Cole also starting to find her touch, and the likes of Nadeen Payne and Sara Blicavs also getting active offensively, the Gems overpowered Japan late in the term, breaking out to an eight-point lead in the dying moments, a Machida three bringing things back to within five before the end of the term.

That was as close as Japan would get, as the Gems, sensing victory, were too good in the fourth quarter, leading by as many as 13 points and protecting their lead despite the efforts of the Japanese side.

Japan fought all the way to the end, but fittingly, it was Roberts who iced the game with a couple of late baskets to seal the nine-point win, booking a semi-final showdown with Spain tomorrow morning (AEST), and a guaranteed look at a medal.

“That’s what we came here to do, have a shot at a medal, so we’re pretty happy, but we’re trying to keep a lid on it, because tomorrow, we go again,” said head coach Cheryl Chambers.

“I think we had the size over them, but after the last game I was critical of our ability to execute under pressure and I felt we did that,” said Chambers. “We went to the well until the well was dry.”

For much of the game, that well was Tayla Roberts, and as Chambers explains, her incredible game was also a result of a great team effort.

“I don’t think they had an answer for her, but as I was saying to the team, it wasn’t purely an individual performance, it was that we were able to get her the ball, so it was a great game for her, but a well executed game for the team also,” she said.

Australia play Spain in the semi final, after Spain accounted for Canada this morning. The semi final tips off at 8:45am tomorrow morning AEST.

Australian Gems 92 (Roberts 41, Cole 17) def. Japan 83 (Takada 23, Machida 22)

Box Score

Tournament website

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