The Australian Under 21 Women’s Basketball team, the Sapphires, suffered a heartbreaking 90-88 loss to the United States in their opening game of the 2007 World Championships at the SK Vidnoje Basketball Hall in Vidnoje, Russia tonight.
Despite leading for the entire game, a 14-0 run from the Americans in the final 44 seconds of the game as well as a dominant rebound count, 45-22, including 21 offensive rebounds, the US snatched the 2-point win.
The Sapphires are competing in the 2007 FIBA World Championships for Under 21 Women in Vidnoje City, Russia which runs from June 29 to July 8.
“I am very proud of the girls,” Head Coach Gary Fox said.
“We played a great game but we just didn’t rebound.”
“It’s going to hurt but we have to get up and play Hungary at 9am tomorrow morning so that is our number one priority now.
“We talked about the areas we needed to improve on and we also talked about the fact we are a great team but we have to be ready every day to prove it.
“We just showed people how good we can be and scoring 88 points is great, but in the end they are a great team but so are we.”
Adelaide Lightning guard Renae Camino scored 21 points to go with seven rebounds to lead the Sapphires while Bendigo Spirit point guard Kathleen MacLeod scored 20 points to go with 8 assists and 19-year-old Canberra Capital forward Abby Bishop contributed 16 points in support.
Stanford University guard Candice Wiggins scored a game high 30 points to lead the US while centres Crystal Longhorne and Courtney Paris contributed 24 points and 16 rebounds and 14 points respectively.
The Sapphires surged to 15-3 lead after just four minutes and with Camino, MacLeod and Opal squad member Jenna O’Hea and all scoring 8 points for the term, the Sapphires set-up a strong 31-19 quarter time lead.
The Sapphires maintained a 12-point lead for much of the second term with Camino leading the charge with 10 second quarter points before a late US basket saw the Australians hold a 44-35 half time lead.
The Sapphires produced a quarter of scintillating team basketball and on the back of brilliant shooting from MacLeod, which included three 3-point baskets, the Sapphires held a 71-56 three quarter time lead.
The USA outscored the Sapphires 34-17 in the final quarter, including the late 14-0 run to register a hard fought win.
O’Hea finished with 12 points and Victorian Elyse Penula (Carlton) scored 10 points.
The Sapphires next game is against Hungary at 3pm AEST tomorrow.
The coach and members of the team are available for comment upon request.
LIVE statistics for all Sapphires games are available at www.russia2007.fiba.com