BRIGHT FUTURE GEMS WIN SILVER AT FIBA U-19 WC
Written by Oliver Kay.
The first quarter was a shootout from the opening tip. The USA got things started with a three from American sharpshooter Hailey Van Lith. From there the floodgates opened and stayed open.
The Gems made seven of their first ten shots, giving them their best start of the entire tournament. Isobel Anstey was an unstoppable force for the Gems. They went to her again and again, and she continued to deliver possession after possession.
In just under seven minutes of court time, Anstey poured on 12 points. She was nearly automatic, shooting 6/7. It was only fatigue that slowed her down.
The USA was not be outdone in the first quarter. Although they shot with less accuracy from the field they were fearless from long-range. Van Lith and Rhyne Howard had the Gem’s defence scrambling to keep a hand in their faces, as they combined for four three-pointers.
Gemma Potter ended the period with a huge three, giving the Gems a 23-22 lead heading in the first break.
The barrage of scoring continued in the second quarter. Agnes Emma-Nnopu came out aggressive early, scoring Australia’s first four points.
USA forward Aliyah Boston gave Australia problems down low. Her strength became a real obstacle, as she went on a scoring rampage, scoring six straight for the USA.
The USA’s defence began to clamp down on the Australian guards early on, doubling the ball handler at every chance and forcing some big turnovers from the Gems.
The lead went back and forth repeatedly in the second quarter, a total of six times, both teams traded punches at the offensive end of the court. Each team was unafraid to get physical as the rebounding battle intensified.
Loose balls became more important with the game remaining so close and each team didn’t hesitate to throw themselves on the floor.
Three-point shooting continued to be a big difference in the USA’s favour, hitting five by the end of the half to Australia’s two. Shyla Heal was able to hit a clutch three for Australia to give them the lead 40-39 heading into the major break.
The games slowed down in the third after the rapid-fire first half. However, that didn’t stop the constant lead changes, as it changing three times in the first 80 seconds.
Emma-Nnopu, as she had done all tournament, continued to do the little things for Australia. Her tenacity under the glass kept Australia’s energy high as the pace of the game slowed and fatigue began to creep in.
Fatigue began to have an impact on the Gems around the midway point of the quarter. Australia began to settle for tough shots in the teeth of the USA’s interior defence, allowing the American’s to go a 7-0 run.
As the quarter wound down the USA looked to be breaking free of the Gems. Yet, once again, a big three from Heal tied the game up again, 53-53 going into the fourth quarter.
The tug-of-war battle for the lead continued without pause after the break. The Gems defence was exceptional, with some incredible clutch blocks from Isabelle Bourne and Anstey. Heal and Emm-Nnopu were also terrific with their on-ball defence, forcing some game-turning turnovers.
The game appeared to be on a knifes edge when midway through Anstey rolled badly rolled her ankle after coming down awkwardly on a crucial block. She tried to play on but subbed out, returning with 1:22 remaining and Australia holding 64-63 lead.
The drama went to new levels when Anstey was hit with an unsportsmanlike foul that sent the USA to the free-throw line, ultimately allowing the USA to tie the game and send the contest to overtime, 66-66.
Things went Australia’s way early, with Shelley getting to the free-throw line to give the Gems the lead. The physicality of the game got even more intense and Australia had their chances to win but the USA thanks to a clutch Van Lith three got over the line at the last minute to win the gold.
After the game, Alexandra Fowler was named in the All-Star Five.
Full box score here
July 20: Gems def by. USA 79-56.
July 21: Gems def. Hungary 81-71.
July 23: Gems def. Korea 78-59.
July 24: Gems def. Colombia 62-53.
July 26: Gems def. Mali 63-51.
July 27: Gems def. Spain 64-55.
July 28: Gems def by. USA 70-74.
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