The Australian Defence Force Opals won the first game of a 4 Nations Tournament played in Moscow overnight by defeating Lithuania in overtime, 80-78.
Trailing by 2 points with eight seconds remaining, Laura Summerton launched an inbounds pass the length of the court to a flying Jenni Screen who scored to tie the totals at the end of regulation.
Scoring first in the extra period, the Opals then pushed their lead out to a 5 point margin and held on to record an epic victory over their taller Lithuanian opponents.
World Champion Australian Defence Force Opal Emma Randall was Australia’s best with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Screen added 14 points and 4 rebounds.
Sydney Uni Flames guard Alicia Poto provided quality leadership to ensure the Opals made good decisions when the game was on the line and her 8 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists were a significant contribution to the Opals win.
After a 12 hour travel day and a midnight arrival into Moscow the previous night, the Australians were challenged physically and mentally yet they found themselves trailing by only three points at half time, 34-37.
The Opals turned up the intensity in the third quarter to hold an 8 point lead only to see Lithuania make some key baskets that put them in the lead with two minutes remaining.
That was when World Champion Opals Summerton and Screen combined for their moment of magic.
It was a credit to the team’s commitment that the Opals out-rebounded Lithuania, whose size earlier in the game was a factor.
“These European teams have been training for a long period of time in preparation for the European Qualifications for Beijing early next month,” Opals head coach Jan Stirling said.
“Our preparation has been very limited due to player unavailability and it is important that we do improve each game to ensure that our longer journey to Beijing has effective processes.”
Australia was without its WNBA-based World Champions Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, Belinda Snell and Tully Bevilaqua, who will join the team when it travels to America for two games against Team USA on September 16 and 19.
The touring Australian Defence Force Opals next game is against host nation Russia at 12:30am AEST tomorrow morning at Vidnoje.
Russia has the majority of its 2006 World Championship Silver Medallist team playing in the tournament and will clearly have the upper hand against the Opals.
Russia is expected to win the European Championships to be played in Pescara, Italy in early October.
Australia 80 - E Randall 19 (10 rebs), J Screen 14 (4 rebs), R Cox (3 rebs/8 assists) def
Lithuania 78 - L Brazdeikyte 17, I Vizbariene 14 (12 rebs), E Briedyte 11
at SK Vidnoje Hall in Vidnoje, Russia.