Sapphires defeat Canada, earn 5th place | FIBA U17 World Championship for Women
The Australian U17 women's squad, nicknamed the Sapphires, defeated Canada in a 69-39 blowout to earn 5th place at the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women.
Head Coach Chris Lucas again changed the starting lineup heading into the game, this time inserting Taylor Ortlepp in place of Jasmine Forcadilla, who was in a relative shooting slump this tournament, just 22% FG and 25% from 3-point range.
The Sapphires made headway early on, moving the ball successfully to break up Canada's zone defense, and was able to convert easy buckets en route to a 31-17 lead at the half. Alex Sharp had a game-high 8 pts while Anneli Maley added 7 pts & 8 rbs of her own.
A continued strong showing in the second half helped Australia extend their lead, ultimately defeating Canada 69-39 to earn 5th place in the tournament. Anneli Maley finished with 10 pts, 10 rbs & 3 steals while Alex Sharp had 8 pts & 7 rbs.
Taylor Ortlepp also had an impressive performance with 9 pts, making Canada pay for their poor zone defense - hitting 3-5 from beyond the arc. Maddison Rocci was again solid off the bench with 10 pts, 7 rbs & 4 asts. In what was a great way to end the tournament, it's only fitting that every Sapphire managed to score.
The Sapphires started off the tournament strong with impressive wins against Japan, Slovak Republic and Mexico en route to a 3-0 record at the end of the pool games. After a blowout win against Mali, Australia suffered their first loss of the tournament against the hometown team in the Czech Republic. The Sapphires would end up defeating France, and ultimately Canada, finishing the tournament with a 6-1 record and a commendable 5th place.
Interestingly, the Australian squad that competed in the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship for Women also finished in 5th place.
It's been an absolute pleasure covering the journey of these talented junior athletes, who might be one of the most talented groups ever to emerge through the Australian basketball ranks. From the U18′s Australian Junior Championships in April to the multiple training camps, that ultimately concluded with an outstanding effort at these World Championships, the effort that these women have put into perfecting their craft is truly admirable.
All week long, I've heard recruiting analysts from all over the globe rave about the individual talent and overall team chemistry this Australian squad possesses. As each of these athletes progress in their respective basketball careers, there’s no doubt that the team has very much exceeded expectations, and success is on the horizon. For a team that was ranked 13th in the world entering the tournament, a 5th place finish is ample proof that the Sapphires are very much the real deal, and a bunch of players we Australians should be proud of.
Be sure to stay tuned however, as the Men's World Championships begin on the 8th of August. We'll make sure to continue our extensive coverage on the Australian talent competing at the FIBA U17 World Championship tournaments.