Opals finish fifth at FIBA World Championship

Opals finish fifth at FIBA World Championship

The Australian Jayco Opals have finished their 2010 FIBA World Championship tournament on a high note, beating France in their final classification match by 74-62 in the Czech Republic to clinch fifth place.

The defending champions finished the tournament with a strong 7-2 record, losing to the United States in the group stages before falling to the host nation Czech Republic in a major upset in the quarter-finals, with the Czech team going on to the gold medal game against the USA.

Lauren Jackson finished with 13 points and eight boards, while Liz Cambage scored 12 and back-up centre Marianna Tolo enjoyed some extended minutes and returned 10 points. Elodie Godin led France with 11 points.

The French began the scoring with a three-pointer, but the Opals responded quickly delivering nine straight points to seize control. It didn't take long for head coach Carrie Graf to empty out her bench and with all five starters sitting, the second unit made the most of their extended opportunities. With Tolo and Richards particularly busy, the back-up Opals ended the opening quarter on a 10-0 run for a 21-7 lead after one.

France was better in the second term as the intensity lifted dramatically. After an incident involving a Lauren Jackson offensive foul on France's Emmeline Ndongue, where Ndongue flopped to the ground dramatically following minimal contact, it was Jackson’s follow-up, leading to a technical foul, that added some much-needed drama to the contest.

Australia's lead stretched to 18 points before France reeled them back within 11 as they entered halftime 36-25.

The Opals improved again in the third, sharing the scoring as Penny Taylor, Hollie Grima and Jenna O’Hea all got involved offensively as the Opals stretched the lead again to 14 heading into the home straight.

The Opals' lead reached 20 points in the final term as both teams traded baskets. The French offense started to lift but they were unable to stop the likes of Cambage and Jackson at the other end of the floor, the Opals sealing the 12-point win and a fifth place finish.

Fifth is Australia's lowest finish in a major tournament since their sixth placing at the 1990 World Championship, although they also missed qualification for the 1992 Olympic Games.

Since claiming fourth at the 1994 world titles, the Opals have won medals at every major event, including gold at the last world titles and three straight Olympic silvers.

With this the first non-podium finish in years, the Opals now must turn their focus towards the London Olympics, where Jackson and Penny Taylor will still be on top of their games at the age of 31, while the rise of Liz Cambage should be rolling on, as the 19 year-old proved that she is already a world class player with a break-out performance at this year’s tournament.

Jenna O'Hea, Marianna Tolo, Abby Bishop and Sam Richards all showed plenty of promise as well.

With the shock quarter-final loss shattering the Opals’ dreams of a gold medal showdown with the USA, there is much that they can take out of this tournament, and still plenty more to look forward to in the coming years.

Australia 74 (Lauren Jackson 13 points, 9 rebounds; Liz Cambage 12 points, 7 rebounds)


France 62 (Elodie Godin 11 points, Clemence Beikes 10 points)

            Aus       Fra

1st Q      21    -     7

2nd Q     15    -    18

3rd Q     17     -    14

4th Q      21     -    23