Australia’s Gems will play for gold at the Under 19 World Cup after dispatching of Spain with a 64-55 victory in the semi-finals, with the team shooting 40% from three-point range to atone for a poor shooting night in the quarter-finals against Mali.
Shyla Heal came off the bench to top-score with 14 points, with fellow guards Jazmin Shelley and Miela Goodchild also finishing in double figures.
— FIBA (@FIBA) July 27, 2019
The Australians fell in an early hole, tallying just 8 points in the first quarter as Spain scored six of the last seven points of the quarter to jump out to a 15-8 lead through ten minutes of play. However, a pair of quick threes from Goodchild to open the second-quarter scoring saw the Gems quickly cut the deficit before briefly taking the lead after starting the term on an 8-0 run. Spain would immediately hit back to restore their advantage, but the Gems carried all of the momentum early in the second quarter, and when Goodchild buried her third shot from deep for the quarter, the Gems hit the front and set about building their advantage into something more significant. Although the game looked set to be sitting on a knife-edge come halftime, a late flurry of points from Isabelle Bourne, who buried a three before finishing the half with a late basket from close-range, put the Australians in a commanding position with a 33-25 halftime lead on the back of a 25-10 second quarter.
Jazmin Shelley kept the threes coming for the Gems early in the third quarter as they moved out to a double-digit advantage, but an extended scoreless period for both sides was followed by a couple of lapses from the Australians that allowed Spain to creep within five midways through the term. However, that lapse was brief, and when Shyla Heal earned her way to the line, the Spanish momentum was slowed slightly, and whilst the Gems were not able to pull away to the same extent that they had earlier in the game, a 15-14 term ensured that they would take a 48-39 lead into the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t quite shades of the Under 17 World Cup bronze medal match against Hungary in 2018 in which she dragged Australia over the line, but Heal came out firing in the fourth quarter to earn two trips to the line and bury a pair of three-pointers inside the first four minutes of the final term. Spain would come hard at the Gems in the early stages of the term, but the Australians found the perfect riposte on just about every occasion to maintain a healthy advantage heading into the final five minutes. A mini-run from the Spaniards would no doubt have had the Australian faithful slightly nervous as the scoreboard read 59-53 with just over 3 minutes to play, and although the Gems gave Spain a couple of chances through late turnovers, they were able to hold off the challenge. Agnes Emma-Nnopu knocked down a pullup jumper with a minute to play to push the lead out to nine, and with no points on either side in the final minute, the Australians made their way through to the final of the World Cup with a 64-55 victory.
Shyla Heal shot a perfect 3 of 3 from beyond the arc and 5 of 6 from the free throw line to finish with a game-high 14 points. Jazmin Shelley was impressive at both ends to tally 12 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals, whilst Miela Goodchild tallied 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals. Isabelle Bourne and Alexandra Fowler were each outstanding on the boards once again to finish with 9 and 11 rebounds respectively as the Gems out-rebounded Spain 48-41, whilst winning the turnover battle 15-21.
The Gems will now play the USA in the final after the tournament favourites narrowly defeated the upstart Belgian side 67-59 in the semi-finals. The final is scheduled to tip off at 10:30pm AEST, with the Australian broadcast rights now held by Fox Sports.
Australian Gems Schedule
(all times are AEST)
July 20: Gems lost to USA, 56-79
July 21: Gems defeated Hungary, 81-71
July 23: Gems defeated Korea, 78-59
July 24: Gems defeated Colombia, 62-53
July 26: Gems defeated Mali, 63-51
July 27: Gems defeated Spain, 64-55
July 28: Gold Medal Game - Gems vs. USA @ 10:30pm AEST