Opals’ gold medal hopes dashed by Japan.

Opals’ gold medal hopes dashed by Japan.

The Australian Opals have fallen heartbreakingly short to a feisty Japan, 67-65, in a semi-final clash that went down to the wire at the FIBA Asia Cup.

With 30 seconds left on the clock, the Opals were positioned well in attack to make a final play for the win, but Japan’s defensive pressure crumbled their chances of taking a shot and inevitably sealed their fate.

Following an astounding SF classification game, Sami Whitcomb was a dominant force yet again. After trailing by eight at quarter time, it was her 16 points and eight assists in attack complimented by seven rebounds and three steals in defence that set the tone for the entirety of the match and reflected throughout the team.

It was a 24-point second quarter that placed the Opals with the lead and within reach of proceeding to the final.

Lauren Scherf stood strong under the Japanese ring, taking an incredible 15 rebounds- halting a red and white momentum swing in clutch moments- while contributing 12 points of her own to the scoreline. Her pivotal play in the third- a defensive rebound followed by a burst down to attack for a second attempt bucket- opened the game right up.

A defensive game plan was implemented by the Opals, and they were able to well execute that focus, dominating the rebound tally, 49-37, although it was a few costly turnovers and a scoreless final two minutes that claimed their shot at gold.

“They’re a great team and our focus was around our defensive effort. It was our turnovers that decided the game, it was our inability to take care of the ball and give Japan the baskets," Coach Paul Gorris said post-game.

Although the Opals are now out of the top two contention, they still have a chance to claim a spot on the podium when they face Korea for the battle for bronze on Sunday night, 8pm AEDST.

SCORE:

Australia:  12          36          55          65

Japan:       20          31          53          67