The Australian Opals have finished their Chinese tour with an exciting win over their hosts on the buzzer, 78-76.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Hollie Grima hit the buzzer-beater to break a dead lock after a brave fourth-quarter comeback by the Aussies.
After three gut wrenching losses in a row, the Opals outscored China 29 to 17 in the final quarter to set up an exciting finish.
The Opals fell behind early in the first quarter with China shooting the ball extremely well to lead 22-14 at the end of the first quarter. China’s Lijie and Chen hurt the Opals with their two-pronged inside and outside scoring.
The Aussies got the deficit back within two in the second quarter, but a couple of turnovers and missed shot opportunities, which China capitalised on, gave the hosts a seven-point lead at half time.
Great contributors for the Opals up to half time were Grima, Jenny Whittle and Carly Wilson. Jacinta Hamilton chipped in six points before having her nose broken early in the third quarter. Hamilton, who was married to Socceroo Josh Kennedy only a month ago, is sure to be comforted by her new husband when she arrives home on Saturday.
The Opals closed the gap to only one point (41-40) in the third term, only to allow the Chinese to go on a 14-2 run on the back of a string of turnovers and missed shots. At the end of the third quarter the Opals trailed 59-49.
Coach Jan Stirling rallied her troops in the final break, demanding a big effort in the fourth quarter.
She was duly rewarded, with youngster Kathleen Macleod providing a spark and contributing six points for the quarter. Jenni Screen caught fire and hit two magnificent threes and Wilson contributed at both ends of the court, scoring points and containing China’s Lijie.
With five minutes left and the match hanging in the balance, Athens Olympian Alicia Poto came in for Macleod to add her experience to the group. The move paid off for Stirling and with 15 seconds left on the clock, the Opals tied the game with a Screen lay-up from a Grima feed.
China called time out to set up their final play which included getting the ball to their star Lijie. Coach Stirling had wisely put McInerny on Lijie who took on the Aussie defensive power-house who forced a turn-over and helped the Opals recover the loose ball.
The Opals called time out with 1.5 seconds left on the clock to set up their last play which saw McInerny set a back screen for Grima on the lob. The play was executed perfectly, Grima scored, and the Opals took home an outstanding 78-76 victory over the host nation.
The Opals arrive back in Sydney on Saturday and will transfer to their respective homes for a well-earned rest before regrouping for a camp and then departing for Europe and en route to the World Championships in Brazil in September.
Hollie Grima 19 points/5 rebounds/2 assists/2 steals
Jenny Screen 14 points/2 rebounds (5 of 6 from the fall)
Carly Wilson 12 points/1 rebound/1assist/1 steal
Jenny Whittle 9 points/5 rebounds/ 2 steals
Kathleen Macleod 8 points
Lijie 24 points/3 rebounds/2 assists/2 steals
Chen 15 points/5 rebounds
Ren 10 points
Lan 10 points
Limited seats for an exclusive Opals supporter's tour to Brazil are now on sale and you can find more information on Basketball Australia's website - www.basketball.net.au.
Opals team for China
Jacinta Hamilton (Dandenong), Hollie Grima (Bulleen Melbourne), Katrina Hibbert (Bulleen Melbourne), Alicia Poto (Sydney Uni), Renae Camino (Townsville), Deanna Smith (Perth), Kathleen Macleod (Dandenong), Emily McInerny (Dandenong), Emma Randall (Dandenong), Jennifer Screen (Adelaide), Carly Wilson (Dandenong), Jenny Whittle (Canberra).
Jan Stirling (head coach), Gary Fox (assistant coach), Cheryl Chambers (assistant coach), Amanda Berntsen (physio), Donna O'Connor (fitness), Scott Burne (doctor), Marian Stewart (operations manager, Brad Giersch (referee).
June 30 - Bao Shan, Shanghai
Australia def Russia – 74-71
July 1 - Bao Shan, Shanghai
China def Australia 86-71
July 2 - Bao Shan, Shanghai
Czech def Australia 70-66
July 3 – Shanghai- Luo Yang
Morning transfer to Shanghai Hong Qiao Airport, fly to Luo Yang.
July 4 Luo Yang
Czech def Australia 54-51
July 5 Luo Yang
Russia def Australia 72-64
July 6 Luo Yang
Australia def China 78-76
Australia arrives home