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Aussie Gems Qualify for World Championships after defeating New Zealand | FIBA Oceania U19 Championships for Women
The Australian U19 Gems have defeated New Zealand 98-65 to qualify for the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women, to be held in Russia next year. Alanna Smith had a game-high 21 points as the Gems capped off an undefeated FIBA Oceania campaign.
Photo credit to Basketball Fiji
Tahlia Tupaea had 18 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists while Alanna Smith added a game-high 21 points, while also pulling down 7 rebounds.
The 1st quarter saw the Gems come out looking to be extremely aggressive, looking to get inside the paint of every possession. Their aggression was rewarded with trips to the free throw line, where they converted 6-of-12 in the period. Team captain Kristy Wallace set the tone early offensively, looking to find her own shot - and the rest of the team followed suit, finishing the 1st quarter with a 23-17 lead. Kristy Wallace with a game-high 6 points, with Anneli Maley adding 6 points of her own.
The Gems began the 2nd Q with an 11-2 run. Alanna Smith was able to get open looks off of Kristy Wallace's penetration while Tahlia Tupaea, who's impact of both ends of the floor was key for the Gems the entire game, capped off the run with a pull-up 3-pointer in transition. Tupaea and Maley were key in this period, keeping control of the pace of the game as Australia continued to extend their lead. The Gems would enter the main break with a 46-25 lead, Tupaea with a game-high 13 points (3-of-5 from 3-point range).
Tahlia Tupaea | Photo credit to Basketball Fiji
With New Zealand's Maia Wilson unable to find her rhythm, the Gems took advantage - opening up the 3rd quarter with yet another Tupaea 3-pointer, as well as some easy points in the pain from Smith. New Zealand, however, was able to keep Australia from running away with the game by hitting their perimeter jump-shots - the 3-ball keeping the game within reach for the Junior Tall Ferns. The lead was eventually cut to 13 points, forcing Gems coach Paul Goriss to use a timeout. However, New Zealand's hot shooting didn't last long, and Alanna Smith managed to score 10 of her 21 points inthe quarter - Australia leading 66-46 at the end of the 3rd period.
The Gems would continue their consistent play in the 4th quarter to eventually win the game, the final score an impressive 98-65. Australia would complete a clean sweep of the tournament and, more importantly, qualify for next year's FIBA U19 World Championships for Women.
Anneli Maley | Photo credit to Basketball Fiji
Anneli Maley continued her amazing form from the FIBA U17 World Championships earlier this year, posting a solid 12 points and 17 rebounds - her 3rd double-double of the tournament.
Alanna Smith would finish the week as the tournament's leading scorer, the Stanford signee averaging 21 ppg for the competition.
A player that must be commended for her efforts throughout the tournament is Kristy Wallace. The Baylor Lady Bear is one of the most senior members of the squad and, although her numbers don't show it, she was extremely important for this Gems squad on both ends of the floor. Her leadership, as well as her ability to control the pace of the game, was one of the defining attributes of the squad, and also one of the reasons why she's an important member of this year's Baylor Women's basketball program.
The 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women will be held in Chekhov, Moscow in Russia from July 18 to July 26.