Commonwealth Games: Opals show class against Canada

Opals | Credit: Basketball Australia

The Australian women have continued their perfect start to the Commonwealth Games, scoring a 100-61 win over an extremely young Canada side at the Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre.

The North American team, whose average age is just over 21 years old, struggled to match-up with the Aussies size and athleticism from the get-go and never really looked a genuine chance.

From the first offensive possession for the Opals, Liz Cambage appeared to be a problem for Canada. They swarmed on her as soon as she received the ball but could do little but foul her and send her to the line for two free throws to open the scoring.

Jenna O’Hea showed no signs of a sore back, immediately going to work in the opening quarter, scoring four of the opening six points for Australia.

If there was going to be any threat of an upset, those thoughts were almost immediately distinguished by a 10-0 start from the Opals.

Australia’s future was also on show early, with Ezi Magbegor driving hard to the lane with her first real look on offence and scoring two with a classy finish.

A lay-up on the buzzer from Tessa Lavey gave the Aussies a 28-7 lead at the first break. Field goal shooting was the clear difference with the Opals going at 55% but Canada managing just two makes from the field and shooting it at 15%.

The visitors came out of quarter time in a half-court trap that went back to a zone, but their heads dropped pretty quickly when Cambage knocked down a mid-range jumper from the short corner.

Canada did show some more composure in the second quarter, outscoring themselves from the opening term with time still left in the quarter.

However that didn’t stop the Aussies from piling on the points, with the hosts leading 50-20 at halftime. Coach Sandy Brondello was able to go to her bench, with all but two players hitting the scoreboard by the major break.

It was in fact Canada who drew first blood in the second half, with Adelaide Lightning import from 2017/18, Ruth Hamblin, finishing well inside.

Hamblin’s basket was the start of a good run for the visitors. Offensive rebounds did appear to be a problem early in the third quarter for the Opals, and it resulted in some scoreboard pressure.

Liz Cambage also found some trouble, with Canada doubling her on the catch, which resulted in some loose passing from the Aussie star.

The Opals would actually go on to lose the quarter 19-22, however came out after the final change and flexed their muscle. A +12 differential for the Aussies in the last term resulted in an impressive 100-61 win, an Alice Kunek jumper on the buzzer getting them to the magical triple-figures.

It was a good spread for the hosts, with Cambage the only player to be on the floor for over 20 minutes (21:21) and everyone managing to trouble to scorers.

It was no surprise that Cambage led the way on the stat sheet, recording 23 points on 9/11 shooting. Steph Talbot was also good, contributing 14 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, while Cayla George did a bit of everything, recording 3 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block.

The Opals will take a lot of confidence out of the game, while the third quarter should give Coach Brondello something to draw on if they do get ahead of themselves.

The Aussies final group game comes against England on Monday (5:30pm), with the qualifying finals commencing on Tuesday.

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Matt Hickey

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Ringwood Hawks forward, guitarist/singer/songwriter, and contributor to The Pick and Roll.

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