The Australian Under 21 Women’s basketball team, the Sapphires, have won silver at the 2007 FIBA World Championships for Under 21 women tonight after being defeated 96-73 by the USA at the SK Vidnoje Hall in Vidnoje, Russia.
The Sapphires progressed to the Gold Medal game after recording six wins and one loss - a last gasp 90-88 defeat by the US in the opening game of the tournament last week.
"It is simply a great accomplishment for the girls and the future of Australian basketball," Head Coach Gary Fox said.
"These girls deserve a lot of accolades for the things they have done.
"USA shot well early and we fought back all game. We got within 12, within ten, within eight points but then we would turn the ball over or give up an offensive rebound and they would break it out again.
"The girls showed a lot of character and early foul trouble certainly didn't help us.
"They are a good team and they probably played above what they can.
"After the game I told the girls how proud I was of them.
"I think a lot of people thought they could not do this but they should be very proud of themselves because they are the second best team in the world.
"What these girls did through the preliminary, pool and final matches and against the teams we played, to do this is brilliant.”
Bendigo Spirit forward Jenna O’Hea scored an equal game high 23 points to go with 8 rebounds to lead the Sapphires with Adelaide Lightning guard Renae Camino tallying 12 points and Sydney Uni Flames forward Mikaela Dombkins adding 10 points.
Centre Crystal Longhorne posted a strong 23-point, 14 rebound double-double to lead the USA with four other players posting 10-points or more in support.
It is a remarkable result for Australian basketball given Australia is one of 213 basketball playing nations in the world.
The USA turned the tables on the Sapphires first quarter tournament dominance, surging to a 15-3 lead after four minutes and with the combination of quick Australian fouls, seven turnovers and a 14-7 rebound count win, the USA held a 32-21 first term lead.
The Sapphires responded when the USA looked to extend their lead in the second term however each time it was reduced to 10-points, the US hit clinch baskets, many frustratingly for Australia from offensive rebounds, which saw the US hold a 55-40 halftime lead.
O’Hea led all scorers for the half with 15 points while Spirit team mate Kathleen Macleod had tallied eight points and four assists.
The USA won the third quarter 20-16, again adding second chance points courtesy of an 18-5 offensive rebound count win, extending their lead to 75-56 at three quarter time.
A determined Sapphires started the final term with an 11-0 run to reduce the lead to eight points, 75-67, with six minutes to go but the USA immediately responded with 18-4 run of their own to shut down the Aussie fight back, going on to win 96-73.
The Sapphires cause was made all the more harder when 18-year-old key forward Abby Bishop fouled out in the opening minutes of the final quarter.
Similar to the opening game defeat to the USA, the Sapphires lost the crucial rebound battle 52-39.
The coach and team members are available for comment upon request.
For all media enquiries, please contact Bill Baxter at Basketball Australia on 0423 378 644.
Sapphires road to silver:
Game 1: USA 90 def Australia 88
Game 2: Australia 82 def Hungary 72
Game 3: Australia 75 def Spain 56
Game 4: Australia 91 def Japan 72
Game 5: Australia 89 def Brazil 82
Quarter final: Australia 98 def Canada 57
Semi final: Australia 88 def France 81
Final: USA 93 def Australia 76