Despite a big second quarter fight back, the Chinese team was just too strong for the Australians, finishing what was a superb tournament with the gold medal.
The first half was one the Aussies would rather forget. The Aussies struck first, as Hannah Kaser cleaned up her own missed shot to make an uncontested lay-up. With the teams locked at 5-4 in China’s favour, the Chinese team went on a 7-0 scoring run, to take a handy 12-4 lead.
The Aussies struggled to score, misfiring from range as the lead was quickly stretched to 11 before the half, mainly thanks to the dominance of Xueya Ma, who top scored for the Chinese team with 15 for the game.
The Aussies wouldn’t get any closer before the break, trailing 20-9 at the main change.
The Aussies came out stronger in the second, beginning a tough fight back. Captain Olivia Bontempelli was dominant in the paint, leading the Australian charge. She got to the line eight times throughout the course of the game and converted seven on her way to an 18-point game, which led all scorers.
After a 5-0 run, all off the hand of Bontempelli, the Australians were within four, with the scoreboard reading 22-18, and they were looking dangerous.
Both teams hit threes with Shen Yi and Kaser getting hot from downtown. The teams continued to trade baskets as Bomtempelli got the Aussies to within four with under two minutes to go.
Australia then fouled the Chinese as Ma hit both to break the backs of the Aussies. Bontempelli and her teammates weren’t going down without a fight though, as the captain hit a three to get the scores to 32-29. The game ended seconds later with Jin Jiabao taking the Chinese to 33 and sealing the gold medal in a tightly fought contest.
It was Australia’s shooting early in the contest that hurt them most. The girls shot 21 per cent from the three and 35 per cent from the field, whereas the Chinese were far more deadly. They converted on 50 per cent of their three-point attempts, and shot 45 per cent from the field.
Jiabao Jin was big on the boards for China, pulling in 10 rebounds, while Xueya Ma kept the scoreboard ticking over. Bontempelli was best for the Aussies and she was supported well by Hannah Kaser, who finished with eight points and five boards.
The loss far from tarnishes what was an amazing tournament for the Aussie girls, who finished strongly, knocking over Brazil and Team USA on their way to the silver medal, joining an illustrious, group of medal-winning Australian basketballers.
With Matt Bartolo, AOC
Photograpy by SYOGOC