Australia unleashed a first half onslaught to overwhelm the Philippines 107-65 to remain unbeaten at the 2017 FIBA Asian Cup in India.
Behind the outstanding play of Sara Blicavs, the Opals proved far too strong for their Asian opponents. Blicavs was almost unguardable, accumulating 17 points with 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals in an awesome all-round performance. Her sister-in-law and Dandenong Rangers team-mate Steph Cumming was also in great form, pouring in an equal game-high 18 points and 3 assists as Australia boasted 6 players in double figures.
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Belinda Snell found Kelsey Griffin open for the first score of the game. Katie-Rae Ebzery scored soon after, while Laura Hodges made one of two from the charity stripe after being fouled in the paint. when Tessa Lavey drained a three-pointer in just over 1 minute into the contest, Australia had opened up an 8-0 lead and the result was looking ominous for the Philippines.
Despite their Asian opponents getting on the scoreboard, Griffin made back-to-back baskets to push out the lead even further. Ebzery continued to be aggressive at both ends, and with an early 14-point lead, Cheryl Chambers had the luxury of subbing out all her starters mid-way through the opening term.
Alanna Smith again made an immediate impact, feeding Sara Blicavs for two straight assists. Lauren Mansfield, Alice Kunek and Steph Blicavs were also in on the action as the Opals took total control of the contest. They would finish the first quarter onslaught with a commanding 38-14 advantage.
Smith again popped up to score an early basket in the second term, however the Philippines showed some fight to steady the ship. Ebzery would score the Opals next 8 points, including two triples to ensure that Australia maintained the pressure and their big lead. Griffin and Sara Blicavs joined in by draining shots from beyond the arc to again push the Opals further ahead. Smith and Hodges continued to cause headaches for their opponents in the paint, before Mansfield connected the Opals fifth long bomb of the period to ensure Australia led 68-23 at the half time break on a 25-0 run.
The youthful duo of Kunek and Smith each scored pushed the margin out to 54 points to open the third term. Sara Blicavs then traded baskets with their opponents with the result well beyond a doubt. the Asian nation would not give up without a fight however, making thew Opals pay late in the period to close the margin back to 46-89 at the last break despite Garrick and Steph Blicavs finding ways to score from the charity stripe.
Sara Blicavs continued to dominate the contest in the last period, keeping the margin well beyond 40. Garrick’s bucket with 3 minutes left saw the Opals reach three figures, while Sara Blicavs continued to blitz. Smith finished off the contest with the traditional three-point play as the Opals prevailed by 42 points in a commanding display.
Marianna Tolo did not enter the court, rested with a minor calf injury, while veteran Snell only played 5 minutes, and both were the only Opals not to score in the lopsided contest.
While the Blicav’s were the standouts, rising star Smith was also once again prominent. The Stanford Cardinal added 12 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists to back up her brilliant Opals debut effort against Korea. Mansfield was also very good in just her second game with the Opals in adding 12 points and 4 assists, while Ebzery also chipped in 12.
Australia’s dominance was emphasised by dishing out 17 assists to 9, punishing their opponents by adding 20 points off turnovers, and scoring 14 more points in the paint.
The Opals will next take on Japan for first place in Group B on Tuesday. Japan will be looking to avenge their loss to the Opals in Rio after the Australian’s came from behind in the last quarter to steal the win.
Australia 107: Steph Blicavs 18 points, Sara Blicavs 17 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists & 4 steals, Smith 12 points, 7 rebounds & 4 assists, Mansfield 12 points & 4 assists, Ebzery 12 points, Hodges 10 points & 6 rebounds
Philippines 65: Pontejos 18 points & 3 assists, Lim 11 points & 3 rebounds