Emerging Opals beat Angola, fall to NZ
The Emerging Opals have started the next mini four-nations pre-olympic tournament with a win. Although the wait for the game was long (we played at 11.30pm AEST), the team showed some resilience to pull away with the 14 point victory.
The Angolans came out in the first quarter with a point to prove, and the young Aussies struggled at times to match this. Cayla Francis and Darcee Garbin used their size to go at the opposition, while sharp shooting guard Felizarda Jorge was lethal from the 3 point line. Jorge finished the quarter with 6 points, while Francis added 6 points and Garbin 5 points for the Aussies. Aussies led at the break 18-14.
The second quarter was much the same as the first as the Angolans again used their athleticism and physicality to push the emerging opals out of their offence. Crucial turnovers and poor shot selections made it difficult for the Aussies to find some momentum, but Tess Madgen and Katie-Rae Ebzery persisted and allowed the Aussies to hold on to their marginal lead at the break (30-26). Madgen & Francis both had 6 points at the break, Garbin had 5 points, and Ebzery finished with 4 points.
Third quarter for the Aussies would be a test of character. The Aussies began to show glimpses of brilliance, but Jorge for Angola unleashed her 3 point shooting and punished the Aussies with 14 points. Madgen continued to showcase her talent with a strong 14 point performance, Francis chipped in for 11 points, and young gun Carley Mijovic added 8 points. The Aussies narrowly extended their lead to hold a 53-47 point margin.
In the fourth quarter, the Aussies put the pedal to the metal to pull away with a 14 point win. The Emerging Opals hung on tight throughout the quarter, Mjiovic went to town and showed off her array of offensive skills, and senior performances from Madgen, Francis and Stephanie Cumming allowed the group to breathe a sigh of relief once the final buzzer went. The clock struck 1.20am AEST, and the Emerging Opals won the match 74-60.
The Emerging Opals now face off New Zealand in their next match 11pm AEST. The Kiwis unfortunately lost in controversial style by 2 points to host nation China in a thrilling match last night and will be desperate for revenge against the emerging opals after a narrow lost last time.
Australia 74 (Madgen 14pts, Francis 13pts & 13rebs, Mijovic 13pts & 6rebs, Cumming 11pts) defeated Angola 60 (Nadir Manuel 16pts & 10rebs, Felizarda Jorge 14pts & Ngiendula Filipe 11pts)
In their next match-up, the Emerging Opals fell to New Zealand by 3 points. New Zealand came out with a point to prove, and eventually came away victors in a closely fought out contest.
The Aussies started strong in the first quarter with Stephanie Talbot showing off her defensive prowess and athletic abilities. New Zealand picked up the pressure, and some uncharacteristic turnovers by the aussies allowed the kiwis to lead 19-16 at the break. Cayla Francis led all scorers with 7 points, Katie-Rae Ebzery added 4 points, and Tess Madgen chipped in with 3 points.
The second quarter was still neck and neck, but New Zealand point guard Micaela Cocks punished the Aussies with a handy 8 point performance. The Aussies found it hard to string back to back to defensive stops which allowed New Zealand to maintain their lead at the break (32-29). Francis, Ebzery, and Madgen again hung tough offensively for the Aussies.
Turnovers and some missed opportunities allowed a confident New Zealand outfit to push forward and extend their marginal lead. The Aussies gave the ball up 17 times at the break which deflated the young Aussie group and allowed New Zealand to lead 54-43. Francis ended the quarter with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and New Zealand's Jillian Harmon and Antonia Edmondson stepped it up with both in double figures at the break.
The emerging opals showed some fighting spirit in the last quarter to allow themselves the best chance possible to pull away with a victory or if anything, to send the game into overtime. Young gun Carley Mijovic was outstanding for the Aussies, as was Ebzery offensively. Cocks for the kiwis continued to shine offensively, but some strong defensive plays by Rachael Flanagan gave the Aussies some hope. Flanagan forced the referees to call a charge on Cocks, and she also stole the ball from the kiwis with some strong denial pressure. The emerging opals fought back hard, but unfortunately were not able to come away victorious going down 67-64.
To end today's report, we would all like to wish a special Happy 18th Birthday to Stephanie "Tubby" Talbot! Tubby turns 18 tomorrow, so hopefully we can send her off with a win against China.
The Emerging Opals have one game left on the tour against the undefeated host nation China. It will be a huge test for the young group, but one the coaching staff is confident we can achieve.
Australia 64 (Cayla Francis 15pts & 16rebs, Katie-Rae Ebzery 13pts & Carley Mijovic 11pts & 10rebs) were defeated by New Zealand 67 (Micaela Cocks 18pts, Jillian Harmon 14pts & 9rebs & Antonia Edmondson 12pts & 8rebs)