Opals advance to FIBA Asian Cup Final
|Steve Chalmers||Jul 28, 2017|
The Australian Opals have booked a spot into the FIBA Asian Cup final after defeating South Korea 81-64 in Bengaluru, India on Friday night.
It was a similar story to their quarter final encounter, where the Opals opened up a margin on their opposition and never looked back; a 23-13 second quarter off the back of Kelsey Griffin and Lauren Mansfield solidified their stronghold on the competition.
Griffin was outstanding for the Opals with 16 points, nine rebounds and two steals in just under 16 minutes, while Mansfield led the team tremendously from the front with 10 points and four assists.
Australia used their size advantage as well as their pace to comfortably account for their opponents.
The Opals were ferocious on the inside, making it extremely difficult for the Koreans to get anything inside the restricted area. After being blocked twice early in the contest, Korea shied away from the paint and were troubled by the Opals defensive intensity.
Australia then pushed the ball at every opportunity and were relentless in the open court.
Griffin found herself in transition a number of times in the opening half, while Belinda Snell's terrific passing also allowed her teammates such as Mansfield to find easy ways to the basket.
The Opals were allowed to rotate through the majority of their line-up, without much hassle, every player understanding the team mentality on both ends of the floor.
Every Korea basket was matched with Australia upping the tempo and looking for a quick response.
Mansfield found her range in the second quarter, with a pair of triples followed by a vast array of moves to see the score escalate to a 14-point gap.
While the Opals have been progressing through the tournament without much resistance, a concern for their coaching staff was the return of their third quarter struggles - somewhat similar to their quarter final against DPR Korea.
Late buckets in the quarter to Alanna Smith and Steph Blicavs (Cumming) saw them recover, while their stringent defence remained compact.
A strong showing from Maddie Garrick late in the fourth was again promising, as the Opals now prepare for their chance at Asian Cup gold in the maiden attempt.
Australia will now face either China or Japan for the FIBA Asian Cup, tip-off scheduled for Sunday July 30 at 12:30am AEST.
Australia 81-64 South Korea AUS: Griffin 16, Mansfield 10, Sara Blicavs 10 KOR: Sim 14, Kang 14, Lim 12 Box Score