The Australian defencejobs Opals completed their 16-day tour of Asia with a 71-64 loss in the final game of a 3-match test series against China in Yixing overnight.
Led by star centre Nan Chen (24 points, 8 rebounds), the home team produced their best performance of the series to claim a 2-1 victory and leave Australia with a 7-2 record on tour.
In another high quality encounter between two countries sure to make noise in Beijing next August, China were able to make plays down the stretch against a desperate Opals outfit, with Chen scoring four key points in the final 95 seconds of the game.
For the Australians, it was another solid effort and despite falling behind by as much as 11 early in the fourth period, the game was still very much up for grabs going into the final two minutes.
Had a deflection and scramble by Rohanee Cox found its way to an Australian hand with 90 seconds to play, the margin would have narrowed to two and the pendulum of pressure would have swung towards the home team.
But the Chinese were able to scramble, re-gain possession and with Chen dropping in a key basket on the next play, the series win was with the home team.
World Champion Opals pair Jenni Screen and Laura Summerton revelled in the physical nature of the game and were the best contributors for the Australians, with Emma Randall another to enjoy the challenge of going head to head with one of the rising stars of international basketball in Chen.
Screen led the Australians with 11 points, while Summerton added nine and Carly Wilson seven to provide some vital perimeter scoring for the visitors against a physical Chinese defence.
Despite the loss, Opals mentor Jan Stirling was positive about the strides the group had made throughout the tour and in particular the three-game series against the Olympic host nation.
"This tour has been very much about starting the journey towards Beijing and we all learnt from both the William Jones Cup and the test series here," she said.
"To play three games against a quality Chinese team has been so important as we move forward and credit must go to the girls for the way they have stayed focused on the process and represented their nation.
"Credit to China, they played very well and we know we must improve as all teams around the world continue to improve."
CHINA 71 – Chen 24, Ren 16 defAUSTRALIA 64 - Screen 11, Summerton 9, Wilson 8, Randall 8Opals movementsThe Opals will travel to Shanghai and Hong Kong today en route to a return to Australia on QF128, arriving in Sydney on Wednesday morning at 7:55am.Natalie Porter, Alicia Poto, Peter Lonergan (Assistant Coach), Elizabeth Swinburn (Team Doctor) and Donna O’Connor (Fitness Co-ordinator) end their trip in Sydney.Hollie Grima, Emma Randall, Deanna Smith, Michelle Brogan, Samantha Richards and Amanda Berntsen (Physio) connect to Melbourne, arriving on QF423 at 11:50am.Jenni Screen, Laura Summerton and Jan Stirling (Head Coach) connect to Adelaide, arriving on QF747 at 11:50am.Carly Wilson connects to Perth via Melbourne, arriving on QF769 at 2:25pm.Rohanee Cox connects to Townsville via Brisbane, arriving on QF 974 at 4:05pm.Marian Stewart (Manager) connects to Canberra, arriving on QF1473 at 11:10am.