The Australian women’s basketball team established an early lead and outlasted a spirited Korean side at the ‘Good Luck Beijing’ test event [official site] in China on Wednesday night, 78-71. [Box score]
Entering the second half of the tournament, the Australian Defence Force Opals players [media guide] were out to stamp their right to Olympic selection and Sydney’s Natalie Porter finished on top of the scoring column with 17 points to go with 7 rebounds.
Emma Randall (16 points, 7 rebounds), Erin Phillips (14 points, 5 rebounds) and Rohanee Cox (13 points, 7 rebounds) followed.
Australia now has a 2-2 win-loss record and if they complete an expected victory over New Zealand tomorrow night they will most probably face a rematch with Cuba in the playoff for third place.
After consecutive losses, Australian Defence Force Opals head coach Jan Stirling was pleased with the victory.
“Korea are great three-point shooters and we haven’t played against that style for a while, so it was nice to have a win,” Stirling said.
“We still turned the ball over too much but it was down from our last game and if we continue in that direction against New Zealand tomorrow we should get the win.
“We had some really good contributions from Porter and Randall and Cox and Phillips and I was pleased with that because they needed to step up and they did.”
Ten quick points by Randall kick-started Australia to a 16-4 lead before Korea fought back to reduce the margin to just two points mid way through the first quarter. Porter picked up the pace with nine points and the ADF Opals were up 29-22 after one frantic quarter of play.
Turnovers have dogged Australia at this tournament and the problem raised its ugly head again as Korea capitalized in the second quarter to put together an 8-0 run that leveled the score at 39-39.
Two-time Olympian Michelle Brogan steadied the ship with consecutive free throws and Phillips knocked down a long bomb to give the ADF Opals a five point buffer at half time, 46-41.
Five unanswered points directly after the break signaled Korea’s intentions before Randall stopped the rot with four points from close to the basket and Phillips hit two further 3-pointers to reestablish the upper hand with one period remaining, 64-58.
Korea again bridged the margin to just two points mid way through the final quarter and relentlessly attacked the ADF Opals but Porter continued to keep the scorers busy as Australia secured a hard fought victory.
Despite 23 turnovers by Australia, a 48-17 rebound advantage was the decisive statistic.
Australia will play New Zealand tomorrow night before the playoffs on Saturday, just prior to the announcement of the women’s and men’s draws for the 2008 Olympic Games.
Quarter by quarter:
1. AUS 29 KOR 22
H. AUS 46 KOR 41 (17-19)
3. AUS 64 KOR 58 (18-17)
F. AUS 78 KOR 71 (14-13)
AUSTRALIA 78 – Natalie Porter 17, Emma Randall 16, Erin Phillips 14 def
KOREA 71 – Yeon Ha Beon 20, Sun Min Jung 14, Kwe Ryong Kim 11
at Beijing Olympic Basketball Stadium, CHINA