Sapphires open title defence with dominant win over Angola

The Sapphires have started their FIBA Under 17 Women’s World Cup campaign in the best way possible, cruising to an 81-43 victory over Angola in their opening game.

Georgia Amoore led the way for the Australian's balanced scoring attack, adding 16 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

It wasn’t long until the game’s first major event transpired as Angola’s Cristina Lourenco was forced to be chaired off court just 30 seconds into the contest after going down clutching at what appeared to be a knee injury. Isobel Anstey came out firing for the Sapphires on the defensive end with two early blocks, whilst at the other end her offensive rebounding earned the towering centre a pair of free throws as the Sapphires set about asserting their dominance early.

Georgia Amoore buried a three for her first points of the competition to put the Sapphires up 7-2, but Angola returned fire through Conceicao Faetano and briefly tied things at 7-7. The Australians’ offence proved to be slightly more polished than Angola’s in the opening stages, with Shyla Heal making the FIBA Africa runners-up pay for giving her the slightest bit of shooting room on the perimeter before Ruby Porter found Agnes Emma-Nnopu rolling to the basket with a delightful pass to extend Australia’s lead to 15-8. Angola could have been in far closer touch if not for some poor free throw shooting, failing to fully capitalise on a Lily Scanlon unsportsmanlike foul, or their numerous other opportunities, going just 2 of 8 at the free throw line as the Sapphires took a 21-9 lead into the second quarter.

Offensive execution wavered for both teams early in the second quarter, with the Sapphires in particular committing a number of unforced turnovers. But with Angola stifled by the Australians’ pressure in defence, they were unable to cut into the Sapphires’ advantage, and eventually a quick steal and lay-up from Alex Fowler extended the lead to 25-10.

For all the lacklustre offence in the early stages of the quarter, the scoring improved rapidly as the quarter wound down, particularly for the Angolan team, who scored half of their 20-point halftime total in the back-end of the second quarter. But with the Australians continuing to find openings both close to the basket and on the perimeter, there was no danger of their lead being cut down as threes from Scanlon and Isabel Palmer forced a timeout from Angola in the final minute of the half with the Australians up 40-20. The stoppage did little to check the Sapphires’ scoring, as Ashlee Hannan rounded out the first half with an and-one that saw Australia take a 43-20 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Izobel Anstey | Credit: FIBA

A frenetic start to the second quarter saw both teams come up with some ill-advised plays before Shyla Heal settled the Australians with a pair of free throws, launching a 6-0 run that forced an early timeout for Angola. The stoppage paid dividends with the Angolans picking up a basket shortly after, but the more polished Sapphires side continued to pose problems for their opponents.

For a period midway through the third quarter, the Sapphires were slightly drawn into playing their opponents’ more frenetic style of basketball. However, once they were able to return to their own high-paced but slightly more structured style of play, the Australians looked far more dangerous on offence. With Angola shooting just 24% through three-quarters, a shared scoring effort saw Australia take a 63-32 lead into the final term.

Scoring was hard to come by for both sides in the opening minutes of the final quarter, with Angola desperate to get a hand on any ball they could conceivably reach but remaining hindered by the Australians’ defence. But as the Angolan side visibly tired as the quarter rolled on, the Sapphires were able to turn the screws, with a lay-up from Heal following a steal at mid-court a particular example. Fast breaks almost became the theme of the final term as the Sapphires were able to get out in transition on numerous occasions. Amoore continued her solid outing deep into the fourth quarter, beating her defender with a nice dribble move before penetrating to the basket, earning a foul and splitting a pair at the line to take her total to 16, a number that would lead all scorers as the Australians opened their campaign with an 81-43 victory.

Alongside 16 points, Georgia Amoore tallied 6 rebounds and 4 assists whilst finishing with an astounding plus/minus of 38. Shyla Heal added 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists, whilst Ashlee Hannan came close to a double-double with 12 points and 9 rebounds. Incredibly, the Sapphires finished the game with 72 rebounds, a combination of the Australians’ advantages in size and rebounding ability as well as the fact that Angola shot just 13 of 63 from the field.

The Sapphires face Latvia in their second group game, with a win guaranteeing the Australians a top-two spot in the pool after Latvia fell to Canada 65-51 in their opening group fixture. That game will be played at 12:45am Monday morning, streaming live on The Pick and Roll’s Facebook page.

Australia 81 (Amoore 16p, 6r, 4a; Heal 13p, 7r, 3a; Hannan 12p, 9r) Angola 43 (Antonio 10p, 7r, 3a; Pululo 9p; Caetano 8p, Dizeko 7p, 13r, 4a)

Box Score

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2018 Under 17 World Cup Schedule (all times AEST)

22 July: Australia defeated Angola 81-43. 23 July: Australia vs Latvia @ 12:45am (watch here) 24 July: Australia vs Canada @ 11:00pm 25 July: Round of 16 Finals 27 July: Quarter-Finals/Classification Games 28 July: Semi-Finals/Classification Games 29 July: Gold Medal Game/Classification Games

All of the Sapphires games will be streamed LIVE on The Pick and Roll’s Facebook page.

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