The Australian Gems showed great composure to defeat Japan at the AIS Arena in Canberra last night, clawing back the lead on three separate occasions to record a 113-107 victory in overtime.
The Gems trailed by 14 points in the third quarter but levelled scores in the fourth, they trailed by 4 points with one minute remaining but forced the game to overtime, and they trailed by 4 points in the opening stages of the extra period.
The Japanese are touring Australia to prepare for the 2007 FIBA World Championship for Under 19 women, set to take place in the Slovak Republic in July.
“That sort of game is character building,” said Gems Head Coach Dean Kinsman.
“We probably didn’t play our best but we stayed in the contest and I’m very pleased that we could turn the game around.
“It sharpens us up in advance of the World Championship.”
The Gems were led by Newcastle’s Katie Ebzery (24 points and 7 rebounds) and Adelaide’s Cayla Francis (21 points and 17 rebounds), while 167cm Victorian point guard Nicole Hunt posted 17 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists.
The Japanese shot the ball extremely well, including 19-of-39 three-pointers and 14-of-17 free throws, with Naomi Hayashi top scoring (22 points) with support from Eri Nakahata (21 points).
A key stat for Australia was their prolific free throw shooting, where they connected on 28-of-38 attempts.
Australia dominated the game in the early stages and built a 10 point lead before Japan fought back to tie the game after one period, 25-25.
The Japanese sharp shooting continued in the second period and saw the number 2 ranked Asian team ahead by four points at half time, 50-46.
Japan’s lead ballooned to 14 points after the main break before Cayla Francis and Terrigal’s Molly Lewis spearheaded Australia’s comeback.
Australia led by one point after three quarters, 76-75, but with one minute remaining they trailed by four points.
Nicole Hunt then scored on a pick-and-roll and a defensive stop gave the Gems a chance to tie the score on the buzzer.
Sydney’s Ellie Manou converted an offensive rebound into points in the dieing seconds and the game was headed for OT.
Japan put on four straight points to open the extra period but the Australians maintained their composure to put together a series of defensive stops that allowed them to halt Japan’s momentum.
The Gems regained the lead and extended it to 6 points at the final whistle.
“I can’t remember the last time I was involved with a women’s game where there were 220 points scored,” Kinsman said.
“It was a great game.”
AUSTRALIA 113 – Ebzery 24, Francis 21, Hunt 17
JAPAN 107 – Hayashi 22, Nakahata 21, Miyamoto 15, Tomizaki 15