Opals lead Japan 2-0 in basketball series

The Australian Opals have taken a 2-0 lead in their three-game series against Japan with an 84-64 victory at Frankston Stadium.


Similar to game one, the Australian women went on a 14-0 run spanning the first and second quarters to blow open the match, taking the score from 19-16 to 33-16.

Picking up from where she left off in the opening game, Steph Talbot started Australia on the scoreboard with an offensive rebound and basket but Japan’s hot shooting start resulted in them hitting their first three field goals.

The Opals were intent on getting the ball down low to Suzy Batkovic and, although she started just 1-5, she forced the opposition into fouls, scoring four from the free-throw line.

Mid-way through the opening quarter, Rachel Jarry had her first court time in more than 18 months after a knee injury and scored with two free throws of her own. 14 attempts from the stripe helped Australia to a nine-point quarter-time lead.

Fast break points for Sara Blicavs and Katie-Rae Ebzery (10 points) kick-started the game-changing run for the Opals.

Coach Brendan Joyce was particularly pleased with that aspect of the game.

“I’m very happy with our execution, offensively,” Joyce said.

“We’re pretty focused on trying to get perfection defensively because we know that we’ve got a great running game. If we get some rebounds, we can really exploit teams with our transition.”

In a triumphant return, Jarry (13 points, five rebounds, two steals) scored the first four Opals points of the fourth quarter and finished with six for the term, while Elyse Penaluna became the eleventh Australian player to hit the scoreboard as the home side ran out comfortable winners.

Top-scoring for the second straight game, Talbot finished with 19 points and six rebounds while Blicavs recorded a complete game with 11 points, seven boards and three assists. Australia dominated the rebounds 47-26 while they finished 15-0 in second-chance points.

“One of the pleasing things tonight was Steph Talbot backing up her big game,” Joyce said. “You hope that that’s going to happen with a younger player and she did that tonight. More so was Rachel Jarry playing so well in her first game back.

“Right across the board there were contributions. Lavey was pretty good, Madge was fantastic again. It’s hard to play 14 players but were managing it.”

The final match of the series will be played on Friday night in Ballarat (7pm AEST).