Anneli Maley had 12 points and pulled down a staggering 20 rebounds as the Sapphires started the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women with a 2-0 record, defeating Slovak Republic 58-51 in a nail-biter.
Maley has proven to be one of the most consistent performers for this Australian squad, averaging 8 ppg and 16 rpg through their first 2 games.
Australia came out firing, shooting 75% from the field en route to a 19-12 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by NSW Country sharpshooter Jasmine Forcadilla helped the lead balloon to 27-17 before a Slovak run to end the half helped cut the lead, Australia leading 33-28 heading into the break.
Australia hustled behind Maley’s energy and Forcadilla’s hot shooting to eventually come away with the 58-51 victory.
Forcadilla was the benefactor of the improved ball-movement, finding herself wide open a number of times – draining 3-of-6 from 3-point range.
Tahlia Tupaea is still getting the hang of playing the point guard role for this squad, again looking slightly uncomfortable running the point – yet she did show some improvements. Tupaea managed to use her strength to get to the rim, an improved aggressiveness that wasn’t evident in their game against Japan, finishing with 11 points and 5 assists. She also showed her value on the defensive end, her effort and intensity proving to be a game-changer for this squad.
Australia will need to take care of the ball as the tournament continues, their interior passing has had glimpses of brilliance but there is a lack of care at times – their 21 turnovers keeping the Slovak Republic in the game. Look for Australia to also take full advantage of their size as they face a small Mexico side in their next game.
The Sapphires next game will be against Mexico on Tuesday at 9:30pm (AEST)