Russia tops Opals in dying moments

Russia tops Opals in dying moments

The Australian Defence Force Opals overnight in Vidnoje, Russia fought a hard and physically demanding battle against the host nation only to lose the lead with seconds remaining on the clock. A pair of free throws by Russia sealed the

The Australian Defence Force Opals overnight in Vidnoje, Russia fought a hard and physically demanding battle against the host nation only to lose the lead with seconds remaining on the clock.

A pair of free throws by Russia sealed the home team’s victory in the battle of the 2006 FIBA World Championship Gold and Silver Medallists, 74-71.    

Reigning Australian Defence Force WNBL Most Valuable Player Hollie Grima led Australia with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 3 assists in her 25 minutes on court but it was Townsville Fire forward Rohanee Cox that took game MVP honours.

Cox’s athletic and aggressive driving to the basket repeatedly kept Russia’s defence under pressure and by games’ end she had compiled 10 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and a cheque for $US500.

Russia’s 203cm centre Maria Stepanova, a three-time Olympian and two-time FIBA Europe Player of the Year, led all scorers with 15 points.

“I feel very proud of the group and whilst the loss is one that we will clearly learn from, the desire, effort and commitment to our game plan was delivered with great intensity and passion,” Opals head coach Jan Stirling said.

“Overall we recognize that a victory over China tomorrow provides us another opportunity to play this powerful Russian side who are suiting up 11 of their 2006 Silver Medal World Championship team.

“Having now played in two countries in Europe, the basketball fraternity here is in agreement that Russia should win the European qualifiers – that in itself makes tonight’s effort highly commendable.”

Australia were without eight of their 12 World Championship Gold Medallists.


World Champion Opal Jenni Screen picked up three fouls in the opening quarter which forced Stirling into early rotations of her players, however the Opals responded well and were only four down at the end of the first quarter, 18-14.

Grima’s injection into the game produced immediate results and despite being outsized all over the court the Opals’ tenacious and committed defence and persistence in competing on the boards saw them down by one at half time, 31-30.

The Opals continued with their aggressive defence and forged a lead of eight points with one period to play, 60-52.   

Mid-way through the final quarter, Screen and Sydney Uni Flame Natalie Porter fouled out, but Cox continued to trouble the Russians.

In the end the power of Russia’s size and athleticism and some inexperienced decision making by the Opals in the final minutes saw Russia take the lead in the last seconds of the game.

Australia out re-bounded Russia 36-32, which was an amazing effort, while the Russians went to the line on 37 occasions compared to the Aussies’ 15.

The Australian Defence Force Opals must now defeat China, whom they face in the early hours of Wednesday morning Australian time, to force a rematch with Russia in the final of the 4 Nations Tournament.

Australia 71 - H Grima 14, R Cox 10, N Porter 9 (5 assists), A Poto 8 (6 assists/5 rebounds), L Summerton 8 lost to

Russia 74 - M Stepanova 15 (4 rebounds), N Vodopianova 12 (4 rebounds/3 steals), T Schegoleva 8 (6 rebounds/4 assists), S Abrosimova 8

at SK Vidnoje Hall in Vidnoje, Russia.