Before a packed stadium, the Jayco Australian Opals have put up a great fight against a strong China side before succumbing to the home team by eight points this morning, in their third match-up of the Qi Yi Four Nation tournament. The win saw China seal first place in the tournament before a packed home crowd.
A tight first quarter had the young Opals team trailing China by just one at the end of the first quarter. Things remained close in the second period as China extended the lead to four points to set up for a tough second half.
Things did not go the way of the Opals in the third period, as they began to struggle from the field. China took this opportunity and countered the Aussies with an aggressive brand of basketball, building a 14 point lead going into the final term, thanks to some sensational transition basketball.
In true Aussie fashion, the Opals didn’t let up, fighting back at the Chinese side in the last quarter. They won the term by 26-20, but it wasn’t enough to get them back into the contest, eventually succumbing by eight points.
Bishop was again dominant for the Aussies, finishing with 16 points, and lifting her stocks as the coaches begin to think about the side that will tackle New Zealand in the Olympic qualifiers. Penaluna was also impressive, finishing with 13 points, while Stephanie Cummings added 11 points.
For China Ding Yuan top scored with 14 points, while Ma Zengyu added 12 points and Ji Yan Yan finished with 10 points for the contest.
The Aussies did not shoot well from beyond the arc, connecting on only 13 per cent of attempts. They were better from inside, shooting 45 per cent, however the Chinese side were a little more efficient, shooting 58 per cent from the floor, while dropping a handy 40 per cent from the three.
The Opals looked after the ball better in this game, keeping their turnovers down, and there were plenty of positives coming out of the game, particularly with the great performance from young Opal Steph Cumming, who was creative on offense while getting a hand to just about every shot at the defensive end of the floor.
Flanagan was again solid from the point spot, while Penaluna also showed some great work on the offensive glass, with a number of put-backs.
“It was a quality game of basketball,” said Opals head coach Carrie Graf. “China was very good and the third quarter hurt us. We struggled to score and China stepped up their running game. China is always a hard team to play: they have good penetration and are solid three point shooters. Both the Australian and Chinese teams are young and it is great competition.”
“It is good to play the Chinese national team, they were tough tonight however we are a new group playing together and competed well,” said Abby Bishop. “We play china again in a few days and are looking forward to the match up.”
The Opals head off tomorrow morning to Yulin City for stop two of the tournament, where they will face Brazil on 22 June, New Zealand on 23 June and China on 24 June.
China 80 (Ding Yuan 14, Ma Zengyu 12, Ji Yan Yan 10) def Opals 72 (Bishop 16, Penaluna 13, Cumming 11)
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