Opals trounce Tall Ferns to go one up + VIDEO

Opals trounce Tall Ferns to go one up + VIDEO

New Zealand will need to win Game 2 by 52 points to stop Australia qualifying for the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women...

[Box Score]

Australia’s women’s basketball team has trounced the Tall Ferns in the opening game of the 2009 FIBA Oceania Championship for Women in New Zealand by fifty points, 98-48, almost guaranteeing qualification at next year’s World Championship.

Restricted to a sixteen point opening quarter the Opals put the foot down over the next three periods to lead by twenty at half time and thirty-five at three quarter time.

203cm sensation Lizzie Cambage top scored for Australia with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting to go with 7 rebounds less than two weeks after her eighteenth birthday. Marianna Tolo and Jessica Bibby added 14 points apiece in support while Beijing Olympian Hollie Grima finished with 12 points and a game high 10 rebounds.

Toni Edmondson was a one-woman show for the Tall Ferns with the lightweight guard compiling 19 points in a stellar game, but Australia wore her down over the duration and only one of her points came in the fourth quarter.

Australia will be without Beijing Olympian Rohanee Cox in the second and deciding game of the FIBA Oceania Championship for Women in Canberra on Wednesday after the star guard was carried off the court in the opening quarter with a knee injury.

Despite the lopsided victory, Opals head coach Carrie Graf was in two minds about how she felt her team performed but she had nothing but praise for Cambage.

“In some ways the game was disappointing because some of our adjustments were not up to standard and that’s not good enough,” Graf said.

“But having said that this game for us was about winning and doing it by a big margin and we did that.

“It would be silly to say that Lizzie is not the most exciting prospect in Australian basketball.

“We’re blessed with superstardom in the Opals with the likes of Jackson and Taylor and Harrower and Snell but on the back of that you look at Cambage and saw, ‘wow’.

“At 6 foot 9 she’s a body type that we haven’t had here and not many nations have around the world and even though we’ve got a long way to go with her she’s incredibly exciting.”

Poto, Sam Richards, Cox, Elyse Penaluna and Grima started the game for Australia and it was Grima getting Australia’s first points on a free throw in a scrappy opening passage that had the fans waiting over three minutes for the first field goal, a Kimberly Barnes inside move to put the Tall Ferns up one.

Foley answered with a three pointer and foul shots kept the scoreboard ticking over but incredibly it wasn’t until two minutes remained in the opening stanza, when Hurst went coast to coast for a layup, that Australia had its first two point basket to go up 14-6.

The Opals were dealt a cruel hand when Beijing Olympian and reigning WNBL Most Valuable Player Rohanee Cox was helped from the court when 24 seconds remained in the period after twisting her knee awkwardly on a rebound.

After one quarter Australia led 16-9, with the Tall Ferns flipping the script on Australia’s pressure defence to the tune of seven Opals turnovers.

Tolo went inside and scored the first five points of the second quarter before Bibby came off the bench and scored seven quick points to put Australia up 31-16 midway through the period.

Edmondson continued her pearl of a game with a three pointer from the corner to give New Zealand hope before Grima and Richards stepped up in an 11-2 Opals run that put Australia up by twenty as half time approached.

Australia went to the locker room ahead 45-25 after lifting its shooting stroke to connect on 12-of-20 field goals, 3-of-10 three-pointers and 12-of-16 free throws while dominating the rebound count 26-11.

Foley got things going in the second half with a mid range shot from the baseline before Tolo went to work inside, Poto knocked down a three and Foley followed with another to cap a 12-2 Opals run in two minutes that gave them a thirty point lead, 57-27.

Edmondson got her seventeenth point of the game on an athletic drive but when Cambage came off the bench midway through the quarter the game changed; the centre scoring twelve points in 3 minutes as part of a 14-2 Opals run that put them ahead 75-36.

Purcell drained a three to stop the rot but when the buzzer sounded at three-quarter time the Opals had won the period 31-16 for a commanding thirty-five point lead, 76-41.

New Zealand put up the first four points of the second half before going ice cold for the next six minutes during which time seven Opals scored and Carly Wilson knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to cap a 20-0 run.

Edmondson hit a foul shot for her nineteenth point to end the drought before the clock wound down with Australia fifty point victors, 98-48.

Australia shot 28-of-48 (58 per cent) from the field for the match compared to New Zealand’s 14-of-47 and added seven three-pointers from 20 attempts while dominating the rebound count 52-25.

After coughing up seven turnovers in the opening period, Australia’s relentless full court pressure saw them finish 16-17 victors in that statistical category.

Opals point guard Alicia Poto got through the game without any trouble from her hamstring and will be in full fitness for game two on Wednesday.

“We had a bit of a slow first half but we came out in the second half and really executed so we’re pretty happy with the win and we’re looking forward to finishing it off in Canberra,” Poto said.

Tall Ferns guard Kate McMeeken-Ruscoe was proud of her team’s effort but unhappy with the result.

“It was incredibly disappointing on the scoreboard but away from that we did get done a few things that we wanted to accomplish,” she said. “All of this is a big learning curve for the girls on our team.”

The second and final game of the 2009 FIBA Oceania Championship for women will be played at the AIS Arena in Canberra on Wednesday at 7:0o0pm AET.

New Zealand will have to win the game by 51 points to qualify for next year’s FIBA World Championship for women.

The Opals will await tests on Cox’s knee but according to coach Graf the outlook is ominous.

“We’ve got an early flight to Canberra and the doctors will make an evaluation tomorrow afternoon in Canberra. She’s in good hands now with our medical people but it’s not looking good.”

Quarter by quarter:
1. AUS 16 NZL 9
H. AUS 45 NZL 25 (29-16)
3. AUS 76 NZL 41 (31-16)
F. AUS 98 NZL 48 (22-7)

AUSTRALIA 98 (Liz Cambage 22, Marianna Tolo 14, Jessica Bibby 14) bt
NEW ZEALAND 48 (Toni Edmondson 19, Natalie Purcell 8, Georgina Richards 7)
in Porirua, New Zealand

Main photo courtesy of Rob Sheeley
Inset photo courtesy of FIBA Oceania