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China edges Australia in thriller

20 June 2013

Basketball: The Australian women’s basketball team almost made the perfect start to the Brendan Joyce coaching era, going down 69-64 in a thrilling opener of their three-game series against China in Shanxi.

In the first game in charge for the recently-appointed Head Coach, the team featuring debutants Sara Blicavs, Natalie Burton and Kelly Wilson took it to hosts, falling just short of claiming Game One honours.

Co-Captains Belinda Snell and Jenni Screen led from the front for Australia, with Snell scoring a game-high 24 points to go with 7 rebounds, while Screen had 10 points and 8 rebounds.Joyce said while the result didn’t go their way, he saw plenty of positives to take out of the performance ahead of Friday’s Game Two.

“They battled very hard and I’m very proud of their performance,” Joyce said.“It’s very tough to win in China, especially when you’re playing against a full-strength China team, but it was a very tough and very competition effort performance.

“We created a lot of problems for China with our style of play. We were able to penetrate and create open looks, but we just didn’t knock down our open looks.

“I was very pleased with our aggressiveness and on the defensive end we did an excellent job, so to go down to a full-strength China by only five points in the end was a fantastic effort.”

It was a fast start from China as the Opals line-up of Marianna Tolo, Cayla Francis, Snell, Screen, and Natalie Hurst worked their way into the contest.

The Chinese lead stood at just four points (16-12) at the first break and was extended to 35-30 at the main interval.At the restart the home team continued to add to the lead and extended the margin to nine points at the end of the third period.

The Opals came hard at the Chinese in the closing minutes, getting within two points with under three minutes on the clock before late free throws ensured Game One would go to the hosts 69-64.Game Two will see the Australians travel to Xiyang (400kms south-west of Beijing) eager to level the series.

Basketball Australia

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