Olympics: Opals defeat Belarus off fourth quarter blitz, sweep Group A
|Steve Chalmers||Aug 14, 2016|
The Australian National Women’s Basketball Team have made it a perfect five for five in Group A after defeating Belarus 74-66 off the back of a massive fourth quarter performance.
A 22-7 final term turned what was once a 13-point deficit into the eight point victory, which was largely led by Opals centre Elizabeth Cambage.
Cambage scored seven of her game high 17 points in the fourth, while Rachel Jarry (8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists) and Cayla George (9 points, 7 rebounds) provided a huge spark off the bench to inspire the Opals to their fifth consecutive victory.
It wasn’t a textbook win in the slightest and the Opals can’t expect to continue to play the way they played if they want to progress deep into the tournament; however contributions across the board would have been the most pleasing thing for coach Brendan Joyce.
Another sloppy start from the Opals has become somewhat of a trademark to their games in the tournament, as Belarus started the better with a 6-2 run. Leilani Mitchell had the hot hand early, hitting two three pointers to tie the game at 12, before Belarus found an edge through Tatsiana Likhtarovich.
In what was a pretty open first half, Belarus found a way getting to the hoop with ease, causing Australia trouble when either posting up or cutting to the basket.
Belarus opened up a seven point lead (30-37) midway through the second term before a quick fire burst from Rachel Jarry had Australia back in the contest thanks to some great assists from Tessa Lavey and Erin Phillips.
After going into the main break down three, Australia started the second half the way they started the game, allowing their opponents to control the tempo. Offence continued to be a struggle for the Opals, as Natalie Burton was called for a 3-second lane violation before Katie-Rae Ebzery was called for a 5-second held ball violation.
The Belarusians continued to put pressure on the Opals, charging out to a 13-point lead at multiple stages of the third term.
Australia found themselves in foul trouble throughout the second half, as Marianna Tolo picked up her fourth foul late in the third, all while Cambage was forced to sit with three fouls. Leilani Mitchell recorded her fourth early in the final quarter as Belarus made the most of their free throw advantage.
The Opals found their groove in a pulsating final term, which saw an opening 16-3 run turning the game on its head. Jarry and Cayla George sparked the team early, before Cambage was let loose midway through the quarter and showed real aggressiveness to find the hoop.
George had a three pointer controversially waved off which would have all but put the nail in the coffin with just a couple of minutes remaining, before Cambage made sure of it with yet another strong move inside.
The win marks a clean sweep in Group A as Australia progress to the Quarter Finals with the first seed in the group. The Opals will now face the fourth placed team in Group B on Wednesday (Time TBC), which will more than likely be Serbia (as China face the USA in their final game).