It was an even battle for the majority of the game, with see-sawing lead changes and a margin no larger than five until the final moments of the third quarter where the Opals were able to break away to hold a nine-point lead at the final change.
Continuing a string of impressive performances, Captain Sami Whitcomb led the youthful Opals to the victory, elevating her intensity in crucial moments and contributing 29 points, seven rebounds and six assists to the elimination match.
Lauren Scherf (13pts, 6rbs, 2st) made an impact while Zitina Aukoso was crucial in defence- hitting seven rebounds in her 14 minutes of game time- making it difficult for the Tall Ferns to find second attempts in attack.
For a fresh Opals line-up, the group retained their composure in the final moments as NZ narrowed the margin to just three. It was the likes of Darcee Garbin (10pts, 4rbs) and Alexandra Sharp (6pts, 3rbs) who’s accuracy on the 3PT line late in the game settled the fast-paced flow and sealed the win.
Australian coach Paul Gorris has been impressed with how this Opals team has handled themselves both against NZ and throughout the whole week.
“The scoreline reflected how physical it was tonight, for us we’re still finding our chemistry when playing together. I’m really proud of the effort they gave, we haven’t spent a lot of time together, we’ve had the two practices. The gelling of the group, I’m super proud of how well we’ve shared the ball but also how tough we’ve played.
“It’s been a tough four games and we haven’t given up on any possessions, played hard for every possession and it’s a great reflection of the group and Sami’s leadership.”
The Opals will now regroup and prepare to face Japan on Saturday night at 10pm AEST.
Australia: 20 40 54 72
New Zealand: 20 34 45 61