The Sapphires put forward a smothering defensive effort to remain undefeated in the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women, defeating Mali 72-34. The Australian U17 Women’s squad, nicknamed the Sapphires, held Mali to just 24% from the field, allowing only 34 points in 40 minutes of action.
Tahlia Tupaea, who continues to captain this squad as they remain undefeated, had an aggressive start to the game, driving hard to the rim and making plays to help Australia garner an 11-8 lead at the end of the 1st quarter – Tupaea leading all scorers with 6 points.
The bench combo of Bride Kennedy-Hopoate and Maddison Rocci was again key for the Sapphires, as the duo sparked a 2nd quarter run to extend the lead to 30-15 heading into the half. Kennedy-Hopoate finished the game with 13 points and 2 rebounds while Rocci had an impressive 10 points and 6 rebounds – proving to be an excellent rebounder for her size.
Head Coach Chris Lucas went with Chloe Bibby in the starting lineup for the Sapphires, sending Alex Sharp to the bench for the 2nd game in a row. This tactic has seemed to work, with Bibby connecting with fellow Victorian big Georgia Pineau on several occasions. Sharp has provided a great spark off the bench and will continue to be one of the most important pieces for the Sapphires moving forward in the competition, her versatility virtually unmatched in this squad.
The guard play of Tahlia Tupaea – 11 points & 3 rebounds – and Jasmine Forcadilla – 4 points, 5 rebounds & 3 assists – was again a bright spot as both have the ability to play either guard position, with both of the NSW girls also being willing and able perimeter shooters. They should also be commended on their on-ball defensive efforts, collaboratively holding the crafty Djeneba N’Diaye to just 20% from the field.
Winners are grinners#FIBAU17 pic.twitter.com/ymjY3tHdW8
— Simon Pritchard (@SimonPritch) July 2, 2014
Although Australia remains undefeated and their confidence is sky-high, they’ll need to limit their turnovers moving forward in the competition. Sloppy passes leading to live-ball turnovers have been a trend for Australia throughout this tournament and will be something they need to limit as they eventually play more experience opponents.
The overall team contribution against Mali should prove to be extremely valuable entering the finals phase of this tournament, with all but 1 player getting on the scoreboard for the Sapphires.
The Sapphires advance to the quarterfinals where they’ll face the Czech Republic on Saturday – 2am AEST.