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Opals set up mouthwatering semi-final against Japan with win over Chinese Taipei
An Opals side seemingly stung by their loss to China the previous evening came out firing to dominate an over-matched Chinese Taipei side, rolling to a 90-51 victory and setting up an Asia Cup semi-final against defending champions Japan.
Bec Allen top-scored with 15 points, whilst Nicole Seekamp came off the bench to tally 9 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists in the big victory.
The length of the Australian lineup, with Allen starting at the shooting guard spot, disrupted Chinese Taipei in the early stages. However, size and athleticism proved not to be the Opals’ only advantage in the opening quarter. A more clinical offensive performance combined with smothering defence that forced low-percentage looks allowed the Australians to open up a significant advantage. Little changed as the second unit came into the contest, with all 12 Australian players seeing court time as they opened up a 26-9 lead after just 10 minutes of action.
Chinese Taipei opened the second quarter by finally finding the bottom of the net from deep at their ninth attempt. Yet the Opals were rarely troubled on offence as their shooting percentage hovered around the 70% mark from two-point range in the early minutes. Chinese Taipei responded by throwing the occasional double-team at the Australian front court, but Bec Allen buried a pair of threes to ensure that that could not become a go-to defensive strategy.
At the other end, Chinese Taipei began to take what the Australians gave them on the perimeter, but it was hardly enough to keep the game competitive as the Opals dominated regardless of the five players on court to hold a 52-23 advantage despite giving up 9 offensive rebounds, with Jenna O’Hea tallying 5 assists in just 7 minutes of playing time.
The triumvirate of Allen, Cayla George, and Ezi Magbegor continued to keep the Australians rolling out of halftime, with each coming up with outstanding plays at both ends in the early minutes. Chinese Taipei continued to battle away though, with the margin growing at a far slower rate than in the first half as they knocked down a couple of open looks from beyond the arc. Allowing their opponents to keep pace left Sandy Brondello less than impressed, with the Opals coach calling a timeout late in the term and imploring her players to build good habits in preparation for a now-certain game against an efficient Japanese side. Nicole Seekamp impressed coming off the bench to run the offence, and also dropped in a contested basket to finish the term and hold a 73-36 lead heading into the final term.
For all their good work after the timeout late in the third quarter, the Opals’ execution was slightly off in the early minutes of the final term. A couple of turnovers buckled the offensive momentum slightly, but Lauren Nicholson finished a lay-up in transition to get the Australians back in their offensive groove for a couple of minutes. The Australians would perhaps have liked to finish the game more strongly than they did, with Brondello calling a timeout with four minutes to play as the fourth quarter resembled the third in terms of scoring runs. The Opals would manage to win the final term 17-15, but more importantly, secured a 90-51 win with every player coming through unscathed from what was generally a solid performance.
Allen led five players in double figures with 15 points, whilst Seekamp excelled in multiple facets to tally 9 points, 5 assists, and a game-high 10 rebounds. O’Hea also dished five assists in just seven minutes.
The Australians’ shooting percentage dipped in the second half, but still finished the game shooting 58% from two-point range as George and Magbegor combined to shoot 10 of 17 from close range.
The Opals will now take on Japan for a spot in the final on Saturday at 10:15pm (AEST), with the game shown live on Fox Sports 507 and Kayo Sports.
Opals FIBA Asia Cup schedule
24 September: Opals defeated Philippines 123-57
25 September: Opals defeated New Zealand 82-44
26 September: Opals lost to China 70-69
27 September: Australia defeated Chinese Taipei 90-51
28 September: Australia v Japan (10:15pm AEST)
29 September: Medal games