Opals all tied up in China series

Opals all tied up in China series

The Australian Women's Basketball Team has been defeated by China 90-84 in the second match of a three-game series in Anshan, China overnight.

Abby Bishop top-scored for the Opals with 15 points, Kathleen MacLeod added 14 points and Liz Cambage 13, while China’s Bian Lan led all scorers with 27 points.

China was quick to take the lead and was strong on the boards giving the side plenty of possession. The Opals lost Beijing Olympian Emma Randall to injury in the first quarter, impacting their ability to hit the boards hard and China continued to dominate throughout the first half, establishing a 10-point lead.

While Bian Lan for China was exceptional and constantly drawing fouls from the Aussie defence the Opals hung on in the third quarter but were still trailing at final break.

The fourth quarter saw Bishop and Rohanee Cox take charge, driving hard to the basket and coming up with some big plays to inspire their teammates. Soon the game was within one point and the Opals were playing with renewed confidence.

In the end the Opals high foul count put China to the line too many times and the lead drew out once more.

In the post match press conference Opals Coach Carrie Graf said, “It was another physical contest and the problem tonight for the Opals was the rebounding in the first half. Being down 22-8 rebounds, it is always going to be hard to come back from that start.”

Graf praised young talent Liz Cambage, the 17-year-old, who in only her second game for the Opals sunk 13 points and took nine rebounds.

“She has got a bright future and it is exciting to watch her play,” Graf said.

Cambage agreed with Graf that the Opals need to make an impact on the boards.

“We’ll definitely come out stronger next game and get on the boards,” Cambage said [AUDIO]. “We’ve had one win and one loss now so we’ve really got to pick it up and give it to China.”

With Australia winning the first game 73-72 on Friday, the series is now tied heading into the third and deciding game in the city of Fuxin in Liaoning Province on Tuesday night at 7.30pm local time.

At a glance:

Australia 84 – Abby Bishop 15, Kathleen MacLeod 14, Liz Cambage 13

China 90 – Bin Lan 27, Chen Xiaojia 13, Ma Zengyu 13

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Coach Graf and Opals off to winning start

16 May 2009

Game One of the 2009 Easygo Shopping Cup between the Australian Opals and China went down to the wire with the Opals narrowly taking a 73-72 win at the Benxi Basketball Stadium in China last night.

The Chinese had a chance to force the game into overtime but the Opals held on to win the exciting match and ensure new coach Carrie Graf bagged a win in her first game.

This was the first ever match to be played in the brand new Benxi Basketball Stadium and not only was the stadium packed, the match was broadcast live to an audience in excess of 12 million in China.

The Opals took to a convincing lead in the first half, dominating the boards and playing tight defence.

The lead stretched to 20 points at one stage as the Aussie girls pushed the ball up the court  creating plenty of opportunities to score. But just when it looked like the Aussie’s might have a comfortable win, the Chinese found their range and began to claw their way back into the match.

With less than a few minutes to go, the margin was back to only two points. The Opals did not panic and, lead by Olympic silver-medallist Alicia Poto, showed great resolve to hang onto the game.

Emma Randall sunk a clutch basket to keep the Opals ahead but with 4.7seconds on the clock in the final quarter China’s Bian Lan went to the foul line with the chance to level the score and force overtime. But she converted only one of her two free throws which gave the Opals possession and they hung on to hear the siren go.

In the post match press conference Coach Graf said she was pleased the Opals managed to hold on for the win.

“The game was a real test of mental toughness for the Opals,” Graf said.

“China played physical ball and had a great run in the second half. The Opals rebounded well, and the match could have gone to overtime but credit to our girls for getting the win.”

“The team is looking forward to game two of the series, and both sides will have plenty to work on before that match.”

Samantha Richards [AUDIO], # 11 for the Opals had a great game sinking 11 points said she was pleased with the way the team fought throughout the match and acknowledged it was always going to be challenging with a new team that had not been together for long.

Beijing Olympian Rohanee Cox was one of the top scorers for the Opals with 11 points while Deanna Smith kept the Chinese defence on their toes with 10 points. Emma Randall and Abby Bishop led the Opals rebounding charge with 10 and 8 boards respectively.

The teams head to Anshan today ahead of Game 2 of the series at 4pm on 17th May.

At a glance:

Aus 73 - Samantha Richards 11, Rohanee Cox 11, Deanna Smith, 10
China 72 - Guan Xin 14, Ma Zengyu 13, Bian Lan 11

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Graf to make debut at Opals helm tonight

15 May 2009 

The Australian Opals will play their first game under Head Coach Carrie Graf at Benxi Stadium in China at 7.30pm (local time) tonight.

The Opals flew out of Sydney on Tuesday afternoon to prepare for the three-game series against the Chinese national team, who are also playing their first game under a new national coach.

It will be a tough ask for the young Aussie side, lining up against a China team with six Beijing Olympians; the Opals boast just two Beijing silver-medallists, Rohanee Cox and Emma Randall. Elyse Penaluna and Liz Cambage will be making their Opals debut when they take the floor tonight.

When the two teams met in Beijing, Australia relegated China to the bronze medal playoff with a convincing 90-56 win. In that game Cox scored eight points in 17 minutes while Randall posted two points in four minutes on court.

The Australian team has an extra weapon up their sleeve; Opals Assistant Coach Michele Timms was also an Assistant Coach to Tom Maher when he led the Chinese women to fourth place at the Olympics and will have some knowledge of the current Chinese team.

The Opals will also line-up against China on May 17 and 19 before heading to Varese, Italy for a training camp.