London: Opals hold off Canada + VIDEO
Australian star Lauren Jackson closed out a nervy 72-63 victory over Canada as the Opals locked in second spot in their pool ahead of knock phase of the tournament.
After starting the game with a 12-0 run and a 24-10 lead at the end of the first quarter on the back of 11 points from Liz Cambage, the Opals looked set for an easy win.
However Canada fought back and cut the lead to just two points late in the game before Jackson (18 points nine rebounds) made eight straight free throws to seal the win and second in the pool.
Cambage led the way for the Opals finishing the night with 19 points (8-of-12 shooting) and four blocks, while Belinda Snell came up big with nine final quarter points to finish the game with 12 points and four rebounds.
It was a brilliant start for the Opals as Cambage inspired a 12-0 run to open the game, with the star proving unstoppable at the both ends of the floor on her way to 11 first quarter points.
This electric start for Cambage was complimented by the efforts of Jenna O’Hea (nine points seven rebounds), who got to the free throw line with absurd ease thanks to her willingness to take on the timid Canadian defence.
The blistering start allowed Opals coach Carrie Graf to give all 12 of her squad court time in the opening stanza, with Adelaide Lightning star Laura Hodges getting her first minutes of the tournament.
These changes of faces had no negative impact on the score line as the Opals ended the first period leading 24-10 and looking unstoppable.
To their credit the Canadians came out with greater defensive intensity in the second period and were rewarded with a mini 6-0 run midway through the quarter cutting the lead to 10 points.
The Opals responded with defensive pressure of their own, causing their opponents to accumulate 11 first-half turnovers.
Some late buckets from Cambage (15 first half points) ensured the lead remained in double figures heading into the main interval, with the Opals holding a 35-22 advantage.
The Canadians came out a different prospect in the third period, shutting down the dominant Opals offense, resulting in eight turnovers for the quarter.
This lack of offensive execution from the Opals allowed Canada to cut the lead to as few as three points with less than two minutes remaining in the quarter.
Needing to steady it was Belinda Snell who stood up to be counted, nailing three clutch three pointers to start the quarter as the Opals looked to kill off their opponents.
With the Opals lead just four points with less than a minute on the clock Jackson made the first of her four consecutive trips to the free throw line, converting all eight attempts to ensure victory and lock in the second spot in their pool.