Opals qualify for 2018 World Cup
28 July 2017
BASKETBALL: The Australian Opals have had a successful day at the FIBA Asia Women's Cup, defeating North Korea in the Quarter-Final 81-48 to advance to the Semi-Finals as well as qualify for next year's FIBA World Cup.
Australia joins 11 other countries who have already qualified for the World Cup with five positions still to be filled before it all kicks off in Spain from September 22, 2018.
A dominant first half got the job done against North Korea as Kelsey Griffin (nine points, six rebounds) and Marianna Tolo (four points, six boards) asserted themselves inside early.
Getting the starting role for the first time, Lauren Mansfield was also instrumental in running the offence and their efficient start forced North Korea to fall back into a zone defence.
They then knocked down two three-pointers to get themselves going at the offensive end but Steph Blicavs (11 points, two assists) responded with two three's of her own while Sara Blicavs (13 points, five boards, three steals) had seven points to help Australia to a 28-12 lead at quarter-time.
Alanna Smith checked in during the second term and put in a scintillating five minutes, collecting seven points and five rebounds as she continued to pressure the North Koreans under the rim.
Maddie Garrick (five points) and Mansfield (five points, five rebounds) kept the three-point party going as well while Katie Ebzery did a bit of everything, tallying five points, three rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block to extend Australia's margin to 26 at the main break.
The Opals could not find their rhythm out of half-time though with a number of shots rimming out and Suk Yong Ro nailed a couple of three's at the other end.
Despite that reversal of form, North Korea only cut into the deficit by one and Olaf Lange went to his bench to try out a few different line-ups.
Smith (20 points, nine rebounds) was finally the player to re-gain the Aussies' momentum and she collected ten points for the final term to help the Opals clinch the contest as well as a World Cup spot.
Check out all the stats here.
The Opals will now take on South Korea for the second time this tournament in tomorrow's Semi-Final from 8pm AEST.
Fox Sports Australia will broadcast that contest LIVE and ad-free on channel 501.
On the opening night of the women's Asia Cup, Australia took care of South Korea by 24 points as Alanna Smith dominated with 15 points and seven rebounds.
The Australian Opals FIBA Women's Asia Cup Schedule (all times AEST):
July 28: Semi-Final: Australia vs. South Korea at 8pm
July 29: Bronze medal game at 8pm
July 30: Gold medal game (12.30am)