The Australian U17 women’s squad has dropped their first game of the tournament, a 61-50 loss to the hometown Czech Republic in the quarterfinal of the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women. A 3rd quarter outburst from the home team was enough to stifle the Sapphires, ultimately ending their chance at a medal.
The game was scrappy from the get go, with both teams exhibiting a physicality that we hadn’t seen so far in this tournament – bodies on the floor and a lot of banging inside. The 2 teams went back and forth but it seemed that no-one could find the bottom of the net – heading into the half 25-25, both teams shooting just 22% from the field.
Tahlia Tupaea was the leading scorer for Australia – 14 pts, 4 rbs, 3 asts & 3 stls – while Chloe Bibby was huge off the bench – 9 pts & 7 rbs.
The Sapphire’s showed their lack of height in this game, giving up 23 offensive rebounds that led to 17 second chance points. Head Coach Chris Lucas decided to go with his starting lineup of 2 guards and 3 bigs, this time slotting in Bride Kennedy-Hopoate over Bibby.
Anneli Maley, who has been a standout performer in the tournament, and Alex Sharp, who’s a difference maker on the court, both received limited time on the court – somewhat unjustifiably, as they were both extremely productive during their time on the court. Look for both of them to get extended minutes as the Sapphire’s continue to the Classification games.
At the end of the day, it seemed as though the Czech Republic played with a different level of intensity – crashing the boards, diving for loose balls and not being afraid to bang – something Australia hadn’t faced in the competition yet.
Although the Sapphire’s are no longer in contention for a medal, there’s 1 memory that we’ll likely take out of the game. Tahlia Tupaea converted what will likely end up being the play of the tournament – inbounding the ball of the opposition’s back, grabbing the loose ball and finishing with a layup. Tupaea showed why she is one of the best junior talents in Australian basketball with this extremely crafty play.
The Sapphires will play in a Classification against France on Saturday night, 11:45pm AEST.