Opals go to the wire against Team USA

Opals go to the wire against Team USA

Missing all five starting players from the 2006 World Championship team, the Australian Defence Force Opals have fallen agonisingly short of upsetting the world’s number 1 women’s basketball team in Connecticut this morning. Beaten by 32-points on Monday night in

Missing all five starting players from the 2006 World Championship team, the Australian Defence Force Opals have fallen agonisingly short of upsetting the world’s number 1 women’s basketball team in Connecticut this morning.

Beaten by 32-points on Monday night in New Jersey, the Opals responded with a gallant, heart-warming effort but were defeated by the United States, 70-66.

University of Tennessee superstar and 2006 World Championship Bronze Medallist Candace Parker led all scorers with 23 points.

Three players - Carly Wilson, Laura Summerton and Hollie Grima - scored 12 points each for Australia in a clear indication of a complete team effort.

“If it wasn’t for some missed foul shots we could have come away with the win,” Australian Defence Force Opals head coach Jan Stirling said.

“We improved in all areas but we gave them a few second chance points and that cost us.

“We mixed up our defence and that caused them some trouble.

“Carly Wilson showed us something tonight and Tully Bevilaqua, Hollie Grima and Emma Randall all played very well.”

The Americans jumped to a 4-0 lead before a tip-in from Bulleen Boomers star recruit Emma Randall and a 3-pointer from Carly Wilson put Australia in front 5-4.

The lead changed numerous times in the quarter before Wilson hit a tough runner to end the period. She finished with 8 points for the quarter as Australia trailed by one point, 24-23.

A Wilson field goal to open the second quarter gave Australia the lead and when reigning WNBL MVP Hollie Grima scored back-to-back baskets on two offensive rebounds the Opals led by seven points, 33-26.

After Team USA coach Ann Donovan called a time out her team responded with a 7 point run to tie the scores but Australia hit back to win the quarter 13-11 and the half, 36-35.

Team USA opened the second half with a 6-0 run but after Australian Defence Force Opals head coach Jan Stirling called a time out the Aussies responded with a 10-2 run of their own to lead 46-43.When Laura Summerton hit a foul shot with 3 minutes 28 seconds remaining in the third period the game was tied for the seventh time, 47-47, before the United States pushed ahead from the foul line to lead by two points with one quarter to play, 53-51.Bevilaqua leveled the scores on two foul shots to open the final period before full court pressure from the Americans resulted in them posting a 6-0 run.When Tina Thompson hit a 3-pointer a blow out was on the cards but Sydney Uni Flames forward Natalie Porter answered immediately with a 3-pointer of her own to keep the Opals in the game.Trailing 68-66 with 26 seconds remaining, the Australians were called for a dubious foul that sent Rebekkah Brunson to the foul line. She completed both for a four point lead that the Americans held until the final whistle.23-year old WNBA All-Star and former Collegiate Player of the Year Seimone Augustus left the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury and did not return. The United States won the rebound count 37-28.The Australian Defence Force Opals have now completed their tour of France, Russia and the United States and will arrive in Australia on Saturday morning.Despite their 2 wins and 6 losses on tour, the blooding of a number of new Opals places the current World Champions in a good position leading into Beijing.With the likes of Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, Kristi Harrower, Belinda Snell and Erin Phillips set to return to the green and gold bodysuit, the women’s basketball world should be shaking in its sneakers.But first, the Australian Defence Force Opals will contest the 2007 FIBA Oceania Women’s Championship in New Zealand, starting on September 26.If the Opals play there like they did in Connecticut this morning, victory is a formality.Quarter by quarter:1: USA 24 AUS 232: AUS 36 (13) USA 35 (11)3: USA 53 (18) AUS 51 (15)F: USA 70 (17) AUS 66 (15)USA 70 – C Parker 23, S Augustus 12, T Thompson 12, S Bird 9, K Lawson 9 defAUSTRALIA 66 – C Wilson 12, L Summerton 12, H Grima 12at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA