2003 FIBA Oceania Championship

Opals wrap up Oceania Women's Championship.

The Australian Opals wrapped up the 2003 FIBA Oceania Championship for Women in Game 2 of the series played at the Devonport Recreation Centre with a 84 to 61 victory over the New Zealand Tall Ferns (Saturday September 13th ).

The Opals secured first place in the Oceania Championship after winning the first two games of the best of three series following a 69 to 55 victory in game one of the series.

The New Zealand Tall Ferns were playing catch up ball all night as the Australians opened their account in first minute of the game thanks to Rachel Sporn and were never headed for the rest of the game. During the first quarter the Opals opened up a 16 to 5 lead with one minute left on the clock and went to the first break leading 17 to 9.

The scoring dominance of the Opals was even stronger in the second quarter. They outpointed the Tall Ferns 27 to 11 and went to the halftime break with a comfortable 44 to 20 lead. Belinda Snell lead the scoring for the Opals with 10 supported by Kristen Veal & Laura Summerton. Kim Weilens lead the Tall Fern scorers with 8 but lacked any significant support from her team mates.

New Zealand coach Carrie Graf must have given the troops a pep talk at the break as they started the second half scoring 11 unanswered points before Australia's Belinda Snell started the Australian side of the scoreboard ticking.

New Zealand's Aneka Kerr contributed 9 points in 3 minutes of play at the head of the second half and went on to be the leading Tall Fern scorer with 16 for the game. The Tall Ferns actually outpointed the Opals 28 to 21 in the third quarter but a 19 point final quarter from the Opals allowed them to continue their unbeaten record in matches against the New Zealanders.

Coach Graf in reviewing this game will ponder what might have been. Jodi Tini in nine minutes of second half play shot 5 from 7 in three point range to finish the game with 15 points after being scoreless in the first half. Kerr (16), Tini (15) and Kim Weilens (10) were the only Tall Ferns to finish in double figures. The Opals likewise only had Snell (16), Natalie Porter (14) and Laura Summerton (10) in double figures. However for the Australian the contributions from other players was stronger than the Tall Ferns.

The Australians have learnt to punish the defensive foul scoring 83% (28 from 34) from the free throw line. New Zealand in comparison recorded a team average of 47% (9 from 19).

The Opals have confirmed their status as Oceania Champions with a two game win in the 2003 series but the Tall Ferns coaching staff would be encouraged by this display especially in the light of the less than favourable preparation.

The Opals coaching staff in turn will know that with several experienced players still to fit into the roster there is a lot of improvement ahead of them on the road to Athens.