Sapphires suffocate Canada to set up Round of 16 clash with New Zealand

Another suffocating defensive effort from the Sapphires combined with an outstanding first half at the offensive end, have delivered the Australians a 64-48 victory over Canada to top Group D at the FIBA Under 17 Women’s World Cup.

Lily Scanlon led the Sapphires with 22 points, with Shyla Heal adding 16 and Isobel Anstey grabbing 12 rebounds.

Lily Scanlon | Credit: FIBA

It was the Canadians who scored first as Sarah Te-Biasu got to the cup on her team’s opening possession, with her quickness and agility proving to be tough for the Sapphires to contain in the early minutes. However Heal showed that she is no slouch herself, finishing a tough lay-up opportunity for Australia’s first points nearly three minutes in. When Lily Scanlon earned a trip to the line after being fouled on a fast break lay-up attempt, the Sapphires had tied the game at 4-4.

The three-point shooting woes of the previous two games continued to plague the Australians in the early stages, but their intense defence, both in transition and in the half-court, kept the Canadian scoring in check and ensured the game remained tight in a low-scoring opening to the game. With Canada forced to resort to tough contested looks around the basket against a comparatively towering Sapphires front court, an Australian side led by a rapidly heating up Shyla Heal opened up their first two-possession lead of the game in the latter stages of the quarter, taking a 15-10 advantage into the second quarter.

Te-Biasu buried a three to open the second quarter, but Scanlon showed her speed off the mark to get to the rack and finish a tough lay-up immediately after. Gemma Potter, playing in her first minutes of the tournament, then came up with a steal and dished to Scanlon on the break for another basket as the Sapphires looked to push the pace at every opportunity.

Scanlon’s solid outing continued, knocking down Australia’s first three of the game at their eighth attempt, and when Heal found Eliza Hollingsworth with a brilliant pass into the post, the Sapphires’ lead had reached 26-17. Turnovers, which had been a problem for Canada throughout their first two games, continued to plague the Sapphires’ opponents, but it was perhaps their inability to contain the Australian back court duo of Scanlon and Heal that was a more pressing issue. The pair combined to score 27 points in the first half, outscoring the Canadian team as the Sapphires went into halftime up 41-25.

The Australians shot an impressive 64% from two-point range, while at the other end, the suffocating Australian defence saw Canada shoot just 5 of 25 from inside the arc, but a pair of late threes from Merissah Russell saw the team shoot 3 of 8 from downtown; vastly better than the Australians’ 1 of 8 mark from deep.

Isabel Palmer earned a trip to the line and converted both free throws to commence second-half scoring, but a combination of solid defence at both ends and the occasional ill-advised shot saw neither team manage a basket from the field for three minutes to start the third quarter. Finally, a smart move allowed Potter to get by her defender and drive to the basket, putting the Sapphires up 45-25.

The Canadians managed to draw a couple of fouls and knock down some free throws, but with both teams throwing the ball away on a number of occasions, the scores rose at an almost glacial pace. Eventually, one of those turnovers did lead to a basket, as Aaliyah Edwards poked away an errant pass from Georgia Amoore and finished the fast break lay-up. Amoore quickly made up for the error though, drawing the foul that put the Sapphires in the bonus, splitting the pair at the line. She followed up shortly after with a drive straight through the line before dishing a smart pass to Hollingsworth for the simplest of lay-ups from point blank range as the Australians maintained a comfortable advantage. A superb floater from Scanlon briefly put the Sapphires up by 16 in the final seconds, but Russell found her way to the charity stripe a split second before the buzzer to end the quarter, converting both to see the Sapphires’ lead stand at 52-36 with a quarter remaining.

Some less than polished play near the basket cost the Australians a couple of early opportunities in the final term and allowed Canada the first points of the quarter, but Scanlon responded with a three to negate any early momentum the Canadians were looking to gain. The Sapphires quickly found their groove again following that basket, with Ruby Porter and Agnes Emma-Nnopu both finding openings to finish from close range and maintain the comfortable margin as the clock approached the midpoint of the final term. However, a brief run from the Canadian side saw Sapphires coach Shannon Seebohm take a timeout at the five-minute mark of the quarter as the Australians’ lead was cut to 59-46.

With both teams’ shooting deserting them in the minutes immediately following the timeout, the Sapphires’ lead was cut by just a single point as Canada called a timeout of their own, trailing 60-48 with three minutes to play. The ensuing play saw an open look at a three from Russell rim out, and when Heal and then Scanlon added baskets in quick succession shortly after, the lead had ballooned to 16 inside the final two minutes. With neither team able to add to their tally in the latter stages, the Sapphires ran out 64-48 victors, setting up a Round of 16 clash with trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand, with that game to tip off at 11pm Wednesday night (AEST), with the game to be live streamed on The Pick and Roll Facebook page.

Scanlon led the Sapphires with an impressive 22 points on 9 of 13 shooting, while Heal added 16 points on 7 of 15 from the field alongside 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Anstey dominated on the boards for the Australians, collecting 12 rebounds to go with her 5 points and 3 steals.

The Sapphires limited Canada to just 26% shooting from the field, and won the turnover count 12 to 21, a sign of their outstanding defensive effort, something that is becoming a trademark of the team.

Australia 64 (Scanlon 22p; Heal 16p, 4r, 3a; Anstey 5p, 12r) Canada 48 (Russell 17p, 3r; Edwards 10p, 6r; Te-Biasu 9p, 3a)

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 defeated Latvia 60-41 24 July: Australia defeated Canada 64-48 25 July: Round of 16: Australia vs New Zealand @ 11:00pm AEST (watch here) 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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