Gems fall short against Spain in Semi Final
Australia’s U19 Women’s national basketball team, the Gems, will play off for the Bronze Medal at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship, after falling to Spain by six points in their semi final match-up today, 55-49.
Despite trailing at every change, the Gems mounted several comebacks throughout the contest, levelling the scores on a Sara Blicavs free-throw with less than three minutes remaining, setting up a thrilling finish that saw a valiant Gems side fall agonisingly close of the Gold Medal match.
Rebecca Cole led the way for Australia on the offensive end with 14 points, to go along with five steals. Sara Blicavs added 11 points, including some clutch free-throws, while Gretel Tippett battled hard all night for her nine points.
After registering the top-scoring game of the championship with 41 points in Australia’s semi final victory over Japan, Gems centre Tayla Roberts was held scoreless for the game, playing only 13 minutes.
The absence of Roberts gave Spain’s star player Astou Ndour, more freedom to operate, the 193cm centre leading Spain with 13 points, while pulling down 13 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end.
Australia began well, taking a four point lead in the first term, a lead that unfortunately marked the final time Australia would lead throughout the game. Their advantage was short lived however and quickly turned into a three point deficit, before an Aimie Clydesdale basket to end the quarter cut Spain’s lead to one, 16-15.
A low-scoring affair played out in the second term, with each side registering only one basket apiece in the first four minutes. With Gems leading scorer for the championship Roberts scoreless, Spain’s centre pairing of Ndour and Laura Gil were causing considerable problems at both ends, blocking four shots between them for the quarter.
Ashleigh Karaitiana came off the bench to reduce the margin to three points, with less than a minute remaining, giving the Gems their second field goal of the quarter. Despite only scoring five points in the second term, the Gems trailed by only four points, down 24-20 at halftime.
Gretel Tippett connected on Australia’s first basket of the second half, cutting the deficit to two points, but the Gems could not control the rebounds, leading to second chance opportunities for the Spanish side. Spain extended their lead to eight points, but Australia managed to reduce the margin back to four, at the halfway mark of the term.
Having drawn level yet again, the Gems could not edge ahead, and although they outscored Spain 15-13 in the quarter, still trailed 37-35 heading into the final term.
The final quarter saw Rebecca Cole again level the scores at 39-39 with 7:23 remaining, but yet again they could not take the lead.
Four straight made free-throws by the Gems saw the scores tied at 45-45 with 2:43 remaining, but an immediate basket by Spain’s Ndour, followed by a three-point dagger by team-mate Marina Delgado extended Spain’s lead to five points with less than a minute left.
The Gems were not finished fighting though, reducing the margin to two points with 0:34 seconds remaining, but two-straight baskets from Spain secured their victory.
Australian Gems head coach Cheryl Chambers said that critical turnovers cost her side in the end.
“It’s disappointing. We wanted to win that game, but we’ve still got an opportunity tomorrow to bounce back and try and get a medal,” said Chambers.
“We had our opportunities, but probably weren’t safe enough with the ball at the right times. But in saying that, we had a lot of endeavour and we fought for every possession, and I guess that’s what it’s about playing at this level.”
Chambers and her side will now sit back and watch the second semi final between the USA and Brazil, with the loser to face Australia tomorrow for a Bronze Medal.
Quarter by quarter
15 - 16
20 – 24 (5 – 8)
35 – 37 (15 – 13)
49 – 55 (14 – 18)