Australia’s Gems will play for a medal at the Under 19 World Cup after defeating Mali 63-51 in the quarter-finals. Gemma Potter knocked down four threes to chalk up 18 points in 18 minutes off the bench, whilst Agnes Emma-Nnopu added a double-double.
For the first time since their pool game against the US, the Gems faced a team that could really match it with them on the glass as the Malians maintained a healthy rebounding advantage throughout the first term. However, that failed to translate into a lead for the West African side as the Australians managed to do a far better job of controlling the ball than they had done in previous games, coughing up just three turnovers in the opening term to hold a slender 15-12 lead, scoring 10 points in the paint in the process.
A Mali three to open the second term briefly tied the game before Isabelle Bourne returned the favour, but four turnovers in the opening three minutes of the second quarter prevented the Gems from capitalising on some good work at the defensive end. The game remained tight into the latter stages of the first half, with only some outstanding defensive work from the Australian frontcourt preventing Mali from taking the lead any earlier than their 22-20 advantage with four minutes remaining. However, with Mali working so hard to get their points, there was little chance for their lead to balloon, and the Gems regained the advantage courtesy of a couple of tough finishes from Agnes Emma-Nnopu and Shyla Heal to take a 28-25 lead into halftime, with five Australian players scoring five or more points in the first half.
An opening to the second half dominated by defence saw the first basket come over two minutes in as Mali connected from close range before Gemma Potter responded with a corner three, her second of the contest. A third shortly after boosted the Australian advantage to eight midway through the term, and for the first time in the game, the Gems were starting to really control proceedings as the lead reached 10 at one stage before Mali knocked down their second three on 20 attempts. But with that basket proving to be the catalyst for a 7-0 run, the Gems were forced into a timeout as their lead was whittled down to three. The break would prove to be the starting point for a Gems run to end the quarter, with the Australians finishing the quarter scoring five of the last six points to hold a 43-36 advantage heading into the final term.
With a number of Mali’s heavy hitters in foul trouble, the Gems looked to take advantage, with the work of Agnes Emma-Nnopu in all facets of the game helping Australia to a 50-38 advantage as the energetic Victorian knocked down the team’s fifth bucket from deep for the contest. Some outstanding ball movement found Potter open for her fourth three of the game, and when Bourne followed suit soon after, the Gems finally looked to have shaken their opponents as the margin reached 58-46 with a quarter to play.
A four-point play for Mali briefly put the cat among the pigeons, but with the West African team unable to cut the margin to any less than eight points, a three from Emma-Nnopu to open the final minute of play put the game to bed as the Gems dribbled out the final 15 seconds to round out a 63-51 victory and move onto the semi-finals.
Gemma Potter buried four threes from six attempts to top score off the bench with 18 points, with Isabelle Bourne adding 14 points and 6 rebounds. Meanwhile, Agnes Emma-Nnopu added 12 points and 10 rebounds for a first double-double of the tournament after providing just about everything apart from consistent scoring to this point.
The Gems' semi-final will take place on Saturday, July 27, and will be streamed live via the Pick and Roll's Facebook page.
Full Game Replay
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: Semi-Finals
July 28: Medal Games