Author: Taylah Melki

2021 NBL1 South Men’s: Round 15

IT was a long time between drinks with the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South put on hold due to Victoria’s snap lockdown. But the competition all picked up where it left off, with teams coming out with a point to prove in Round 15 as the competition starts to heat up.

There was one battle that went right down to the wire in Round 15 as Nunawading Spectres and Geelong fought it out until the dying stages of the game. Only two points separated them at the final siren as the Spectres claimed an almighty comeback win, 85-83. It was a tale of two halves as the Supercats had the momentum in the opening half and then lost their rhythm in the second.

Geelong were firing on all cylinders in the opening term as Isaac Turner made his intentions clear opening his account with a triple. However it did not take long for the Spectres to answer the call and quickly level proceedings as it turned into somewhat of a shootout. Both sides were trading points as the lead swung back and forth before Geelong kicked things up a gear. A couple of handy substitutions gave them some fresh legs out on court as they powered home in the final five minutes of the term to blow the lead out to seven at quarter time.

The Spectres were not about to back down from the challenge as they wasted no time hitting the scoreboard in the second to eat into the deficit. A seven point differential quickly turned into a two point deficit with Jack Gandolfo proving to be the man for the job. But every time Nunawading got within striking distance the Supercats found a way to pull ahead and create some scoreboard separation heading into half time up by a handy five points.

The third quarter is where the script was completely flipped as the Spectres levelled the scores within the first minute of the term. From there on out, the Spectres monopolised the play with their increase in defence and offence enabling them to establish dominance. Everything started to fall their way as the Supercats were forced onto the back foot and struggled to find an answer for their opponents’ new found confidence. Holding a four-point lead heading into the final stanza, the Spectres were eager to ride out the game in style but Geelong had other plans getting back within two points in the early stages of the quarter. Nunawading were able to counter everything that was thrown at them, weathering the storm nicely to secure a hard-fought two-point win.

Tom Wright was a key cog for the Spectres draining 22 points at 73 per cent from the field while his accuracy from down town was also impressive as he registered three triples from four attempts. He also finished with four rebounds, six assists and one steal. Teammate Andrew Steel was also in hot form posting 16 points in his 31 minutes on court while also racking up three rebounds in the win. Simon Conn fell just short of a double-double with his 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists as Dain Swetalla quietened down after the first half but still managed 10 points and eight rebounds.

Turner was the main man for the Supercats as he topscored with 22 points at 57 per cent from the field. He also collected one rebound, four assists and a steal in the narrow loss. Owen Odigie was the next best with his 14 points at 80 per cent from the field while also reeling in six rebounds as teammate Jack Macdonald got busy with his 11 points, two rebounds and two assists. Shea Ili managed a handy 10 points in his 34 minutes on court while also finishing with three rebounds, four assists and two steals. George Blagojevic found his rhythm sinking 10 points and nine rebounds in a solid performance.

The second placed Frankston Blues asserted themselves against Sandringham Sabres in a convincing performance while Knox Raiders blew the Melbourne Tigers out of the water with a romping 49-point win. The Miners got over the top of the Wildcats while in the battle of the birds it was the Diamond Valley Eagles that reigned supreme against the Ringwood Hawks, as Kilsyth Cobras toppled the Rangers while Bendigo Braves handed Ballarat their second loss for the season.

Round 15 results:

Geelong Supercats (90) defeated Bendigo Braves (80)
Knox Raiders (124) defeated Melbourne Tigers (75)
Ballarat Miners (86) defeated Eltham Wildcats (76)
Ringwood Hawks (88) defeated by Diamond Valley Eagles (97)
Kilsyth Cobras (83) defeated Dandenong Rangers (71)
Bendigo Braves (84) defeated Ballarat Miners (71)
Waverley Falcons (89) defeated Ringwood Hawks (82)
Sandringham Sabres (73) defeated Frankston Blues (91)
Nunawading Spectres (85) defeated Geelong Supercats (83)

Photo credit: Ian Knight Photography

Olympics review: Day 10 – Couple of Olympic veterans bid farewell

THINGS continued to heat up on Day 10 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as Slovenia secured a comfortable win against Germany while Australia stunned in their performance against Argentina to claim a staggering 38-point win in the quarter finals.

Slovenia (94) defeated Germany (70)

The good times keep on rolling for Slovenia notching up a dominant 24 point win over Germany in what was a one-sided affair. Slovenia burst out of the gates with a whopping 25 point to 14 point term to claim the early ascendancy and did not look like relenting with their pressure. Although Germany hit back in the second quarter to reduce the margin they failed to maintain that level of desperation and court play in the second half as Slovenia kicked things up a gear. They starred in the final term with 28 points while keeping Germany to 16 to really romp home the win.

Zoran Dragic led the troops for Slovenia posting an impressive 27 points at 85 per cent from the field. In fact, he was deadeye from two point range nailing six straight with his only fault coming from down town finishing with five from seven. He also registered six rebounds, four assists and three steals in the win. Luka Doncic continued his merry way notching up another double-double after draining 20 points and 11 assists and just fell short of a triple-double with eight rebounds, all of which were defensive. Mike Tobey also hit the scoreboard in the win sinking 13 points in his 33 minutes while also reeling in 11 rebounds. Jaka Blazic chimed in with nine points and three rebounds as Vlatko Cancar finished with eight points and three rebounds. Scoring proved a bit more difficult for Germany as Maodo Lo topscored with 11 points at 50 per cent from the field. Niels Giffey was hot on his heels with 10 points to his name but was fouled out of the game. Moritz Wagner worked tirelessly in his 10 minutes of court time to finish with nine points, one rebound as Danilo Barthel slotted seven points and collected six rebounds in the loss.

Spain (81) defeated by USA (95)

Team USA got the job done against Spain clinching a 14-point win. It was a tight tussle to begin with as Spain held the lead albeit by two points at quarter time. The lead ballooned out midway through the second term however the USA kicked things up a gear to get themselves back within striking distance and level things at half time. They upped the ante even further in the third quarter piling on 26 points to 20 while they left the best till last showcasing their endurance and class with a 26-18 term. Statistically speaking it was hard to split the two sides as they shot at 45 and 48 per cent from the field with the US just pipping Spain at the post.

It is not the way Marc Gasol would have liked his farewell performance to have gone as he only managed the four rebounds and one assist. But Ricky Rubio dominated with a whopping 38 points while shooting at 65 per cent from the field. He also collected four rebounds and two assists in his 27 minutes of play. Sergio Rodriguez did not muck around raining 16 points as Willy Hernangomez recorded a handy double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Team USA shared around the points with five players hitting double-digits, but it is no surprise that Kevin Durant topped the table credit to his 29 points, two rebounds and four assists. Jrue Holiday was the next closest with his 12 points in 23 minutes while he also accumulated two rebounds and five assists Jayson Tatum found his stroke from deep hitting three from five as he finished with 13 points to his name. Damian Lillard and Zach Lavine were the other two to have an impact on the scoreboard slotting 11 and 10 points respectively in the win.

Italy (75) defeated by France (84)

Only nine points divided the winner in this match with France just sneaking over the line against Italy. It was a seesawing affair as the two sides traded blows. Italy had the upper hand in the first quarter piling on 25 points while keeping France to 20. But France hit back in the second quarter to flip the script and even the ledger at half time. The table started to turn in the third quarter as France found their rhythm in both offence and defence. Heading into the final quarter with a handy lead France kicked into cruise control and while Italy worked in overdrive they simply could not do enough to get back within striking distance. The main difference was shooting percentage as France managed 48 per cent as opposed to Italy’s 32 per cent from the field.

There were two main scorers for Italy as Simone Fontecchio and Danilo Gallinari headlined the nation. Fontecchio starred with his 23 points and two rebounds as Gallinari managed 21 points and 10 rebounds in what was a strong outing. Achille Polonara also found his rhythm slotting 15 points at 63 per cent from the field while also reeling in seven rebounds. There was no shortage of options for France as Rudy Gobert had his eye in finishing with 22 points and a 77 per cent clip from the field. He fell just short of a double-double with his nine rebounds. Teammate Evan Fournier also plied his trade sinking 21 points, three rebounds and four assists as Nicolas Batum dazzled with his double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds in the win. Thomas Heurtel also chimed in with a handy 10 points and five assists to get France over the line.

Australia (97) defeated Argentina (59)

The final game of the day went the way of Australia in what was a comprehensive performance after quarter time. The Boomers ran out 38-point winners credit to a demolition final term where they poured on a staggering 37 points to 11. It was a less than desirable start to the match for the Aussies as Argentina held the lead at quarter time credit to their ability to get in the paint and score. After opting for triples throughout much of the opening stanza Australia shifted their game plan in the second to wrestle back control of the game and steal the lead heading into half time. The Boomers were not content with only being up by six points, putting the foot down in the third but it was their blistering final quarter that set tongues wagging as they completely obliterated the Argentinian team. Australia finished with 44 rebounds in comparison to Argentina’s 36 and were more accurate from the field sitting at 49 per cent compared to 34.

It was Patty Mills that once again led from the front drilling home 18 points, two rebounds and four assists in the win. He was not alone though as both Jock Landale and Matisse Thybulle imposed themselves on the contest finishing with 12 points each as Landale reeled in seven rebounds. Joe Ingles had a hot hand slotting 11 points for the game while he also proved busy in attack racking up seven assists and four rebounds. Nick Kay provided a big body for the Aussies as he collected a double-double credit to his 10 points and 10 rebounds. In fact, every player on the Australian roster managed to hit the scoreboard highlighting the number of options at Brian Goorjian’s disposal. It was a different story for Argentina as they bade farewell to five time Olympian Luis Scola who managed seven points and four rebounds in the loss. Nicolas Laprovittola topscored with his 16 points at 46 per cent from the field while Gabriel Deck had plenty of the ball reeling in 10 rebounds but was unable to find his rhythm shooting at 36 per cent for his 12 points.

Photo credit: Getty images

2021 NBL1 West: Round 16

IT was another cracking round of National Basketball League (NBL1) West action with Round 16 seeing some blowout results in both the men’s and women’s.

It was a nail-biting finish between Joondalup Wolves and Willetton Tigers as only one point separated the two at the final siren (73-74). In the end it was the Tigers that just pipped their opponents at the post somehow holding on despite a second half avalanche.

Willetton came to play in the opening term and while they missed the first shot of the game quickly made up for it with Hunter Clarke asserting himself nice and early on the contest. It took just over two minutes for the Wolves to hit the scoreboard with Willetton impressing both in offence and defence. The visitors did not make life easy for Joondalup as they capitalised on the opportunities that came their way to steadily add to their growing lead. in fact by quarter time the Tigers were up by nine points credit to a 27 point to 16 term. The second quarter tightened up on the scoring front as the Wolves worked tirelessly to reduce the hefty quarter time deficit.

The Wolves flipped the script in the third as they cranked up the intensity on the scoreboard to put pressure on Willetton to create some doubt. But despite Joondalup having more scoring chances the Tigers were able to keep their noses in front as they continued to add to the scoreboard. The lead got out to as much as 14 points before Joondalup once again dug deep to apply the pressure and get back within striking distance with only seven points splitting the two sides at the final change. With the game on the line the Wolves hit the scoreboard in the first 30 seconds of the term and continued that momentum throughout the term. Scores were all tied up with less than five minutes left in the game with the Tigers somehow mustering up another level to grind out the game and clinch victory.

Lochlan Cummings was on fire for the Wolves draining 27 points at 48 per cent accuracy, from the field. He also managed a handy eight rebounds and one assist while teammate Jonathan Wade was the only other player to reach double-digits with his 10 points. The scoring fell off after that as both Reece Maxwell and Mitchell Newton managed nine points and five rebounds apiece in the narrow loss.

There were two main standouts for the Tigers as Damien Scott and Connor Minchenton did the heavy lifting. Scott drained 26 points in 35 minutes of play while also accumulating two rebounds, one assist and two steals. Minchenton on the other hand slotted 21 points at 47 per cent while also registering three rebounds, four assists and four steals. Teammate Michael Vigor got busy with his 12 points and 13 rebounds to collect a huge double-double while also picking up two assists and a steal. The other main contributor for Willetton was Hunter Clarke as he registered 11 points, five rebounds and five assists.

In other results, Rockingham Flames imposed themselves in both of their matches collecting wins against Warwick Senators and East Perth Eagles. Perth Redbacks also got the double win in Round 16 while Mandurah Magic made their presence felt in their sole outing to clinch victory.

Men’s results:

Warwick Senators (86) defeated by Rockingham Flames (88)
Perth Redbacks (100) defeated Eastern Suns (89)
East Perth Eagles (66) defeated by Rockingham Flames (77)
Lakeside Lightning (78) defeated by Mandurah Magic (94)
Geraldton Buccaneers (62) defeated by Warwick Senators (90)
Joondalup Wolves (73) defeated by Willetton Tigers (74)
Goldfields Giants (82) defeated South West Slammers (73)
Cockburn Cougars (69) defeated by Lakeside Lightning (73)
Perry Lakes Hawks (92) defeated East Perth Eagles (70)
Eastern Suns (101) defeated by Perth Redbacks (113) 

Women’s:

The final game of the round was a thriller as the Eastern Suns pushed the Perth Redbacks every step of the way but fell just short (63-69). The Redbacks have had a chequered run so far this season while the Suns have struggled to find their winning ways and this game was no different.

The Redbacks held the early ascendancy up by two points at quarter time thanks to their ability to convert and capitalise on the opportunities that came their way. It only took 10 seconds for Makailah Dyer to hit the scoreboard and get the ball rolling for Perth while for their opponents it took just under two minutes for the first score to be made. The Suns skipped out to an early 10 point lead before Dyer put a stop to it with her constant hustle and attack on the rim. A raft of substitutions gave them fresh legs to close out the quarter and reclaim some momentum heading into the second term. The Redbacks took another step up in the second as they put on the after burners with Dyer continuing her merry way and Maddison Allen upping the ante while Samantha Roscoe worked in overdrive for the Suns.

Down by five points at half-time the Suns came out with a pep in their step to reduce the deficit to three points early in the quarter. Their increased hunt and desperation for the ball was on full show as they pressured the Redbacks into turnovers and missed shots while they did not skip a beat. They drew back within two points and then stole the lead credit to a Jewel Williams triple as the momentum started to swing in favour of the home side. Scores were all tied up heading into three quarter time signalling what was going to be a blockbuster final term. But Perth managed to find a way to drag themselves back into the contest and sneak ahead to claim the win.

Roscoe was the dominant scorer for the Suns with her 20 points in 34 minutes while she also collected four rebounds, two steals and three blocks. Mia Jacobs chimed in with 14 points and eight rebounds as Rebecca Motroni contributed 13 points and eight rebounds all of which were defensive. Williams slotted 12 points and while Ellyce Ironmonger did not have a huge impact on the scoreboard she starred off the boards with 12 rebounds.

Dyer topped the table with her 26 points and 12 rebounds for the Redbacks. It did not stop there as she reeled in five assists, four steals and one block. Allen chimed in with 16 points shooting at 56 per cent from the field, while she also registered five rebounds, five assists and four blocks. Raya Thompson was also solid for Perth draining 10 points, four rebounds and two assists.

The Rockingham Flames impressed in their game against Warwick Senators to claim victory while the Redbacks made it two from two against the Suns. East Perth Eagles collected a hard-fought win against the Flames while the Wolves got up against Willetton Tigers.

Women’s results:

Warwick Senators (86) defeated by Rockingham Flames (103)
Perth Redbacks (81) defeated Eastern Suns (62)
East Perth Eagles (82) defeated Rockingham Flames (69)
Lakeside Lightning (56) defeated by Mandurah Magic (96)
Joondalup Wolves (85) defeated Willetton Tigers (79)
Cockburn Cougars (83) defeated Lakeside Lightning (66)
Perry Lakes Hawks (83) defeated East Perth Eagles (54)
Eastern Suns (63) defeated by Perth Redbacks (69)

 

Photo credit: rpmarketing.co

2021 NBL1 South Women’s: Round 15

ROUND 15 of the National Basketball League (NBL1) South Women’s played host to a couple of close calls as nine games played out across the weekend. There were a couple of surprise results as second and third dropped games against their lower placed opponents.

The contest between Knox Basketball and Melbourne Tigers went down to the wire in what was a see-sawing affair. But in the end it was the Tigers that managed to swindle the win by a mere six points and cause a huge upset (78-72).

The Raiders raced out of the blocks in the first quarter as the Tigers simply could not but a basket missing their first three attempts of the game. On the other hand, every time Knox got within shooting range they hit the scoreboard as they immediately established a lead. Melbourne started to kick into gear midway through the term, as their shots started to sink but that was short lived. Within the blink of an eye the Raiders pushed out to an eight point lead and did not look done with yet as they continued to put their foot down. As the clock ticked down to the three minute mark Knox were up by 13 points and looked to have the ascendancy.

It was a complete switch up in the second term as the Tigers came out with a point to prove. Struggling to find her groove in the opening stanza Zitina Aokuso came to life, landing the first points of the quarter for Melbourne to get the cogs ticking over. Momentum began to shift in favour of the Tigers towards the latter half of the quarter as they ate into the margin reducing it from 19 points to 10 within a matter of minutes. Not only was Aokuso upping the ante but so too was Monique Conti as the pair combined seamlessly to chip into the deficit. By half time only six points separated the two teams.

That momentum and trajectory continued deep into the third as Melbourne managed 17 points while keeping the Raiders to 10 points. The Tigers drew level with just over three minutes left in the quarter before stealing the lead thanks to a Tylah Hooper triple at the two minute mark. Sensing a win Melbourne pulled out all the stops in the final term as their big name players imposed themselves to keep the Tigers’ noses in front and grind out the win despite Knox working in overdrive to flip the script.

Leah Santomaggio had a hot hand for the Raiders as she drained an impressive 26 points at 63 per cent from the field. She starred from beyond the arc nailing six of her 10 attempts while she also reeled in four rebounds in the loss. Klara Wischer was in fine form slotting 19 points and fell just short of a double-double with her nine rebounds, one assist and one steal. Lucy Dawson managed to chime in with 10 points, five rebounds and a steal for Knox.

For the Tigers, Aokuso led the charge with her 22 points in 36 minutes of play. it did not stop there though as she secured a whopping 14 rebounds – 13 defensive – along with four rebounds and two steals. Conti managed 15 points at a lowly 29 per cent from the field, plus four rebounds, two assists and a steal while Kirsty Wallace also drained 15 points. Isabella Brancatisano finished with eight points and three rebounds to her name in the win.

In other results, the top of the table Frankston Blues continued their winning ways with victory against Sandringham Sabres as the second placed Bendigo Braves fell to Ballarat Rush. Eltham got the chocolates against the Rush while Ringwood reigned supreme against Diamond Valley Eagles. It was a good weekend to be a Ringwood Hawks fan as they also notched up a win against Waverley Falcons as the Cobras managed to claim victory in their sole outing against Dandenong Rangers.

Round 15 results:

Geelong Supercats (90) defeated by Bendigo Braves (98)
Knox Basketball (72) defeated by Melbourne Tigers (78)
Ballarat Rush (63) defeated by Eltham Wildcats (82)
Ringwood Hawks (84) defeated Diamond Valley Eagles (74)
Kilsyth Cobras (83) defeated Dandenong Rangers (70)
Bendigo Braves (70) defeated by Ballarat Rush (78)
Waverley Falcons (65) defeated by Ringwood Hawks (74)
Sandringham Sabres (62) defeated by Frankston Blues (75)
Nunawading Spectres (78) defeated by Geelong Supercats (83)

Photo credit: Melbourne Tigers

Olympics review: Day 7 – Boomers and France make it three from three

IT was another day of action packed basketball at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, as Australia continued their merry winning ways despite missing the services of Aron Baynes while the United States also collected a convincing win against Czech Republic.

Iran (62) defeated by France (79)

Iran put up a good fight against France but in the end France was simply too strong both in offence and defence walking away with the wind. Holding a five-point lead at quarter time France went on to inflict more pain in the second with a 24-10 term to really assert their dominance on the contest. Although Iran hit back in the third it was too little, too late as France came home strong and sealed the win. Shooting accuracy was the main differential between the two sides as France converted at 49 per cent from the field while Iran only managed 34 per cent. Rebounds were relatively close with only ten separating the two (42-32) while looking at assists France also led the way with 24 to 17.

Hamed Haddadi made his presence well and truly felt for Iran registering 18 points while he also racked up the rebounds with 12 to record a handy double-double. It did not stop there though as he chimed in with five rebounds, two steals and three blocks. Both Arsalan Kazemi and Benham Yakhchalidehkordi slotted 11 points apiece with Kazemi reeling in eight rebounds and three steals in the loss. Thomas Heurtel was the main port of call for France as he drained 16 points in just under 15 minutes while he also managed three rebounds. The points were shared around for France as Timothe Luwawu Cabarrot added 12 points along with five rebounds and three assists while Nando De Colo and Vincent Poirier contributed a solid 10 points each.

Italy (80) defeated Nigeria (71)

Italy stood up against Nigeria to run out with a nine-point win, coming out with a real fire in the belly in the opening quarter draining 29 points to 17 to establish a handy 12point lead at quarter time. But Nigeria struck back in the second piling on 22 points while keeping Italy to just the 11. Nigeria maintained that momentum heading into the third quarter to really assert their dominance and create a hefty lead at the final change. But Italy was not done with yet as they came out with a point to prove in the fourth term draining 24 points while keeping Nigeria to a mere eight.

Five players for Italy made it into double digits as Nicolo Melli made his mark with 15 points at 50 per cent from the field. Melli also recorded five rebounds and a steal while Achille Polonara drained 13 points, five rebounds and two assists. Nico Mannion did not skip a beat with 14 points while Simone Fontecchio also slotted 12 points and four assists in the win. Chimezie Metu was in fine form for Nigeria recording 22 points and 10 rebounds in what was an all-round solid performance. He managed an impressive six triples from seven attempts at 86 per cent. Joran Nwora was the next best with 20 points in his 34 minutes of court time while Jahill Okafor finished with 14 points and eight rebounds to his name.

Australia (89) defeated Germany (76)

The Boomers claimed another win, this time over Germany by 13 points. Germany raced out of the blocks early in the first quarter but Australia hit back in the second to not only level the scores but so to take the lead. That momentum continued into the third and they really romped at home in the 4th with a 23 to 17 point term. Australia had the upper hand when it came to field goal percentage shooting at 50 per cent however Germany were hot on their tails with 41 per cent. Germany reigned supreme on the rebound front with 45 to 28 with their form off the boards keeping them within striking distance.

Patty Mills was once again in dominant form for Australia posting 24 points, six assists and one rebound in the wind. He was ably assisted by Jock Landale who produced 18 points at 70 per cent from the field in just 25 minutes of court time. He also managed three rebounds and three assists in the win while Nick Kay also found his groove with 16 points, four rebounds and four assists. Dante Exum was the other player that managed to hit he strides with eight points, four rebounds and three assists. For Germany Andreas Obst led the charge sinking 17 points albeit at a lowly 38 per cent while teammates Johannes Thiemann and Niels Giffey registered 11 points each. Thiemann just fell short of a double-double with his nine rebounds, while speaking of rebounds Johannes Voigtmann was in blistering form off the boards with 13 to his name.

USA (119) defeated Czech Republic (84)

The United States came away with a romping 34-point win against Czech Republic. The US were surprised in the first term as Czech Republic opened up a seven point lead at quarter time before Team USA put the jets on in the second to flip the script and get the game back on their terms. They really put the foot down in the third with a 35-17 term while they upped the ante even further in last with 37 points to 24 in what turned into a dominant performance.

Jayson Tatum topscored for Team USA with an impressive 27 points in 24 minutes of play. He managed a 50 per cent conversion rate from down town draining five shots from 10 attempts while also picking up two rebounds. Kevin Durant upped the ante in this performance finishing with 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists to his name. Zach Lavine was solid with his 13 points while Jrue Holiday also found the net with his 11 points shooting at 71 per cent from the field. For the Czech Republic Blake Schlib was the man to watch producing 17 points and five rebounds while Jan Vesely was also a solid contributor with his 13 points in just under 30 minutes of play. Ondrej Balvin made his presence felt collecting 15 points, four rebounds and one assist as Tomas Satoransky also got into his groove with a stats stuffing performance consisting of 12 points, six rebounds and eight assists.

Photo credit: Getty images

Olympics review: Day 6 – China hands Australia devastating loss

AUSTRALIA Opals were handed a huge upset by China to keep them winless so far in the Olympics while the US continued to roll on this time notching up victory against Japan.

Belgium (87) defeated Puerto Rico (52)

It was a one-sided affair as Belgium reigned supreme over Puerto Rico claiming a 35-point win. Belgium won every quarter with their best performance coming in the second as the kept Puerto Rico to a mere eight points while piling on 20 of their own. They were in complete control and did not relent on their pressure and constant attack to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Belgium imposed themselves in all aspects of the game especially when it came to field goal percentage shooting at 52 per cent compared to a lowly 24. They also had more rebounds (54-33) and assists (28-11) but coughed up the ball more than Puerto Rico (20-13).

It was another stellar performance by Emma Meesseman who impressed all over the court racking up a double-double with her 26 points and 15 rebounds. She was the lynchpin for Belgium while Hanne Mestdagh also got busy with her 18 points at 60 per cent from the field. Kim Mestdagh was also in fine form for Belgium producing 15 points in her 25 minutes of court time along with six rebounds, two assists and a steal. Julie Allemand was the other one that bobbed up with a handy 10 points, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Jazmon Gwathmey led the charge for Puerto Rico with her 20 points albeit at 37 per cent from the field while also reeling in five rebounds. Jennifer O’Neill was solid with her nine points, two rebounds and one assist while India Pagan made her presence felt with her six points in just nine minutes.

USA (86) defeated by Japan (69)

After somewhat of a slow start, the USA managed to ride home and claim victory over Japan in convincing fashion. Down by two points at quarter time USA flipped the script in the second term to notch up 21 points while keeping Japan to just the 10. They managed to keep the foot on the pedal throughout the third while they really ramped it home in the final quarter 21 to 16. Field goal percentage proved to be the difference once again with the US converting at 54 per cent while Japan only managed 35 per cent. The United States also had more rebounds 48 to 33 and racked up a whopping six blocks to zero in the win.

A’Ja Wilson continued her merry way with 20 point and 10 rebounds highlighting just explosive she is with ball in hand while Breanna Stewart proved she was not here to muck around slotting 15 points at 60 per cent from the field while also reeling in a whopping 13 rebounds, 12 of which were defensive. Brittney Griner left her mark with her 15 points and five rebounds as Jewell Loyd chimed in with 12 points. Maki Takada was the topscorer for Japan producing 15 points and three rebounds in her 32 minutes while teammate Saki Hayashi managed 12 points. Monica Okoye was the only other player to make it out of single digits with her 11 points in 15 minutes of action.

France (87) defeated Nigeria (62)

France got the chocolates over Nigeria with a commanding 25 point win. France raced out to the lead in the opening quarter creating a six point buffer and continued to fire in the second term with 26 points 215. Nigeria continued to ply their trade but were a step off the pace as France increased that heart margin at three quarter time. Statistically it was a lot closer than the scoreboard would suggest as France had the higher field goal percentage at 50 per cent compared to 35 and more rebounds 45 to 32 but had more turnovers 15 to 13 proving Nigeria were careful with ball in hand.

The number 13 proved to be the magic number for France as four players such as Alix Duchet, Marine Johannes, Endene Miyem and Gabby Williams managed 13 points. Williams also notched up nine rebounds and four assists in the win. Sandrine Gruda did one better draining 14 points and fell just short of a double-double with her nine rebounds. For Nigeria it was Promise Amukamara that did the heavy lifting with her 11 points and three rebounds as Ezinne Kalu got busy with 10 points in 32 minutes.

China (76) defeated Australia (74)

China secured the two-point win in controversial fashion with Yueru Li handed two free throws after the buzzer to steal the win. It had been a topsy turvy game from the get-go with Australia unable to really assert their dominance on China as they skipped out to an eight point lead at quarter time. Although the Opals fought their way back into the contest they never looked in control with China once again pulling away in the third term with a 17 points to nine quarter. In fact the lead got out to as many as 11 points midway through the fourth before back-to-back triples from Jenna O’Hea levelled the scores with less than two seconds on the clock. But it was not to be as China triumphed in an emphatic win.

China was in the driver’s seat for much of the match as Siyu Wang piled on 20 points at 67 per cent accuracy from the field while her conversion from the charity stripe was even better slotting seven from nine at 78 per cent. She also managed three rebounds and five assists. Yueru Li not only clunked the sealer but managed 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the win while teammate Meng Li also got busy with her 11 points and seven assists. Liewei Yang was the only other player to reach double-digits with her 10 points, two rebounds and two assists. For Australia it was inaccuracy that cost them as Ezi Magbegor led the charge with her 15 points, four rebounds and one assists. O’Hea was the next best with her 11 points at 57 per cent from the field, while Cayla George managed 10 points, five rebounds and three assists before being fouled out of the game in the final second. Both Katie Ebzery and Leilani Mitchell worked tirelessly for their nine points but managed a mere 18 and 33 per cent respectively from the field.

Photo credit: Eric Gay

Olympics review: Day 3 – Belgium causes upset against Opals

THE men were given a rest day on Day 3 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics while for the women’s draw it was full steam ahead as four games took place. Japan opened its campaign with a gutsy win while Belgium also made its intentions clear with a dominant victory over Australia.

Women’s: 

Japan (74) defeated France (70)

The contest between Japan and France went right down to the wire with the host nation spoiling the party to clinch a four-point win. France crept out to the lead at quarter time boasting a four point lead but is where it stopped as Japan steadily fought back. By half time they were back within two points before they well and truly took control of the game in the third to steal the momentum before sealing the deal in the final term.

There were three main figures for Japan as Saki Hayashi led all comers with her 12 points despite only being on court for 17 minutes. Moeko Nagaoka was in good shooting form sitting at 75 per cent from the field and finishing with 11 points and three assists to her name. teammate Maki Takada was the only other player to hit double-digits with 10 points while Rui Machida chimed in with seven points and a whopping 11 assists in the win. Sandrine Gruda dominated for France with 18 points at 64 per cent from the field while also accumulating nine rebounds and one steal. Endene Miyem made her presence felt for France with her 12 points, six rebounds and three assists as Gabby Williams was the next best with her nine points, four rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks in an all-round impressive performance.

Nigeria (72) defeated by USA (81)

Team USA kicked off their campaign in style with a nine-point win over Nigeria. It was not all their own way through as Nigeria held sway in the opening term to earn the upper hands and a chance to cause an upset. But the quality and class of the US came to play in the second and third term as they piled on 53 points to Nigeria’s 30 to swing momentum into their favour. Nigeria were not about to just lie down though as they rallied in the final term to give USA a real scare draining 22 points to 11 but they left their run a little too late.

Ezinne Kalu dominated for Nigeria producing 16 points at 54 per cent from the field while she also recorded six rebounds and two assists. Victoria Macaulay was not far off the pace sinking 11 points, three rebounds – all of which were defensive – two steals and two blocks. Both Promise Amukamara and Adaora Elonu managed 10 points each in the loss for Nigeria. A’Ja Wilson made a real splash for the US draining a game-high 19 point points at 60 per cent from the field. She also racked up 11 rebounds and four assists. Teammate Brittney Griner was also notched up a double-double sinking 13 points and 10 rebounds in her 20 minutes out on court. Diana Taurasi was in fine form nailing 10 points while Breanna Stewart just fell short of a double-double collecting nine points and 11 rebounds in the win. Although Sue Bird did not have an influence on the scoreboard her ability to set up plays was unquestionable as she recorded 13 dimes.

Australia (70) defeated by Belgium (85)

Belgium took Australia by surprise in the final term to arrest the lead and then steal the win from right under the Opals’ noses. It was a close contest from the opening jump-ball as the lead ebbed and flowed as Belgium held the lead at quarter time before the Opals hit back in the second to reverse the scoreline. But Belgium just proved to be too strong and too dominant winning both the third and fourth quarter. In fact, in the final stanza of play the Opals were kept to a mere 13 points as Belgium piled on 29 to really romp home the 15-point victory.

There were a couple of shining lights for the Opals with Ezi Magbegor impressing with her 20 points in 32 minutes of court time. She proved to be the real go-to girl in offence, often weaving her way towards the basket while she also imposed herself off the boards racking up 10 rebounds. Cayla George was another highlight for the Aussies draining 12 points, 10 rebounds and four assists while Katie Ezbery also made her presence felt knocking back 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists. But the real problem for the Opals was Emma Meesseman with the Belgian star getting a hand in just about everything and dominating on the scoreboard with her game-high 32 points at 58 per cent from the field. She fell just short of a double-double finishing with nine rebounds to her name along with five assists, four steals and a block in what was a complete performance. Julie Allemand chimed in with a handy 16 points and impressive 11 assists as Antonia Delaere got busy with her 17 points at 55 per cent from the field plus her four assists.

Puerto Rico (55) defeated by China (97)

China claimed a monster win over Puerto Rico with a 42-point victory to really cement themselves as contenders. There was no denying that China came out with a point to prove pouring on the points in the opening term to establish a 15-point lead. They steadily built on that in the second quarter with a 21-9 term and refused to take the foot off the pedal in the third to really assert their dominance. The final quarter was much of the same as China drilled home 26 points to 16 as they simply could not be denied in attack or defence.

Yueru Li topped the table for China with her 21 points and 12 rebounds in what was a one-woman show as Meng Li got busy with her 15 points and four assists. Other key contributors for China were Xu Han and Zhenqi Pan who both managed 11 points each with Han also imposing herself on the boards with 14 rebounds. Puerto Rico had a couple of players step up to the plate with Pamela Rosado leading the way with her 14 points. She found her stroke from three point range with three triples from five attempts as she also recorded two assists and two rebounds. Jennifer O’Neill made her presence felt with 13 points in her 30 minutes while Isalys Quinones had a stats stuffing performance with her 10 points, five rebounds and one assist.

Photo credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Olympics review: Day 2 – Luka Doncic dominates to guide Slovenia to victory

IT was a good day to be a Spaniard with both the men’s and women’s basketball teams notching up hard fought wins. The first day of the women’s basketball action got underway yesterday with Serbia prevailing in a hard-fought win while the men’s continued to roll on with Slovenia getting the win credit to a huge individual effort.

Men’s:

Argentina (100) defeated by Slovenia (118)

The battle between Argentina and Slovenia had many ebbs and flows but one thing that remained the same was the presence of Luka Doncic who led Slovenia to a 18-point victory. It is fair to say that it was a one man show as he drained a staggering 48 points in the victory. Slovenia opened up an eight-point lead at quarter time and extended that margin at half-time credit to a 30 points to 18 term. They also went on to win the third quarter and while Argentina fought their way back into the contest ever so slightly in the fourth, but Slovenia had already done enough to comfortably secure victory.

Doncic was in fine form and simply could not be stopped recording a huge double-double thanks to his 48 points and 11 rebounds, eight of which were defensive. He also managed five assists and three blocks in the win. Klemen Prepelic was a solid contributor with his 22 points and impressive field goal percentage of 75 per cent while Vlatko Cancar managed 12 points and five rebounds in the win. Mike Tobey had a game to remember draining 11 points and reeling in a whopping 14 rebounds. For Argentina Luis Scola was the dominant scorer registering 23 points in his 27 minutes out on court, while Facundo Campazzo produced 21 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Gabriel Deck worked in overdrive to keep Argentina in the hunt slotting 17 points and eight rebounds while Luca Vildoza was sound with his 11 points, three rebounds and five assists.

Japan (77) defeated by Spain (88)

Spain got their campaign off to a good start claiming an 11-point win over Japan. Spain asserted themselves early in the first quarter to open up a handy four point lead but the real damage was done in the second quarter when they piled on 30 points while keeping Japan to just the 14. Japan hit back in the third quarter to eat into that deficit and kept their foot on the pedal in the final term but it was too little too late as Spain had done all the damage and rode out the game to claim the win.

Yuta Watanabe was the leading points scorer for Japan as he finished with an impressive 19 points, eight rebounds, three assists and five steals to his name in an all-round comprehensive performance. Rui Hachimura was also in nice touch draining 20 points albeit at a lowly 38 per cent from the field. Yuki Togashi, Kosuke Kanamaru and Gavin Earl Edwards all managed eight points apiece, with the latter also registering a handy seven rebounds and four assists. Once again it was Ricky Rubio that kick-started things for Spain with the star collecting 20 points in his 21 minutes out on court. He fell just short of a double-double credit to his nine assists. Victor Claver was the next cab off the rank with 13 points and nine rebounds, as Marc Gasol also chimed in with 12 points. Alex Abrines was the only other player to hit double-digits thanks to his 11 points and 50 per cent conversion rate from the field.

Women’s:

Korea (69) defeated by Spain (73)

Spain walked away with the win over Korea albeit by a narrow four points with Korea fighting every step of the way. Spain skipped out to an early one-point advantage before Korea mounted a comeback in the second to flip the script and take the lead at half-time. This topsy turvy nature continued throughout the third term with Spain once again fighting back and although Korea showcased glimpses of magic simply could not maintain that high level of output to secure the win.

Leeseul Kang was in hot form for Korea draining 26 points at 53 per cent from the field. She also recorded seven rebounds all of which were defensive. Teammate Ji Su Park also plied her trade with 17 points with her accuracy from the charity stripe coming to the fore sitting at 100 percent. She also impressed off the boards with 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Hyejin Park was the sole other player to reach double-digits for Korea with her 14 points. For Spain it was Astou Ndour that paved the way with her scintillating form collecting a game-high 28 points. It did not stop there for Ndour as she also reeled in 10 rebounds, eight of which were offensive. Laura Gil registered a double-double with her 16 points and 14 rebounds while Cristina Ouvina played a handy role with her 11 points in 30 minutes of action. She also plied her trade off the boards with seven rebounds and racked up eight assists.

Serbia (72) defeated Canada (68)

It was an intense battle between Serbia and Canada as the lead chopped and changed throughout the contest, but in the end it was Serbia that mustered up the energy to ride out the game and claim a narrow four-point win. Serbia held sway for majority of the game outscoring Canada in the first half to take a handy lead into the break. But Canada flipped the script in the third with a whopping 17 point to 29 quarter to change the course of the game. But Serbia managed to dig deep and find another level to kick into sinking 27 points while keeping Canada to 23 to steal the win.

Serbia had no shortage of contributors throughout the match as Sonja Vasic mounted the charge with her 16 points at 60 per cent from the field. She also recorded three rebounds and three assists in the win. Yvonne Anderson was next best sinking 12 points in her 25 minutes out on court while also picking up five rebounds and three assists. Ana Dabovic found her rhythm nailing 11 points with her accuracy from the free throw line sitting at 100 per cent. Nirra Fields worked in overdrive to keep Canada within striking distance slotting 19 points, four rebounds, three assists and four steals. Teammate Kia Nurse was also an imposing threat draining 16 points but did not have her radar on only converting at 33 per cent from the field. It did not stop there as she managed six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Shay Colley proved to be an impact player with her 12 points in 13 minutes but it was not enough to get Canada over the line.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Olympics review: Day 1 – Team USA handed shock loss

IT was an action packed opening day of basketball at the Olympics with Team USA handed their first loss in 17 years while the Australian Boomers opened their accounts with a convincing win.

Iran (78) defeated by Czech Republic (84)

The Czech Republic could not have made their Olympics debut any more memorable if they tried, claiming a seven point win over Iran to assert themselves on the competition. It did not take them long to find their groove as they opened up a handy six point lead at quarter time and did not relent on that pressure throughout the contest. Their constant hustle and willingness to win ball was front and centre as Czech Republic went up by as much as 22 points. But they took the foot off the pedal in the fourth which ultimately allowed Iran back into the contest as they drained 32 points to 17.

Benham Yakhchalidekordi was the leading scorer for Iran slotting 23 points at 56 per cent from the field. Mohammad Jamshidijafarabadi finished with 16 points at 64 per cent along with seven assists. Teammate Hamed Haddadi was not far off the pace with 15 points of his own while also reeling in 10 rebounds. There were a number of key contributors for Czech Republic as Patrik Auda led the charge credit to his 16 points and six rebounds. Tomas Satoransky was down on his lofty standards when it came to points scoring with just the six next to his name but managed to fill out the other columns racking up eight rebounds, eight assists and five steals. Blake Schilb and Jan Vesely both contributed in the  win with 14 and 11 points respectively.

Germany (82) defeated by Italy (92)

Italy made their presence felt with a 10-point win over Germany despite the Germans getting the early head start. A fast finishing Italy side led by the two experienced players in Nicolo Melli and Danilo Gallinari helped get them over the line as they inspired a final quarter comeback. Germany held the lead for the majority of the game creating a 10-point buffer at quarter time but Italy steadily chipped away to pile on the last 12 points of the game to steal the victory.

Maodo Lo was in fine form for Germany producing a team-high 24 points with his accuracy and confidence from beyond the arc at full pelt draining six from nine. He also collected four rebounds and four assists in the loss. Isaac Bonga worked gallantly for his 13 points as Moritz Wagner and Andreas Obst finished with 12 points apiece for the Germans. Gallinari was a real nuisance piling on 18 points and two rebounds for Italy as partner in crime, Melli also got busy with his 13 points and nine rebounds. Stefano Tonut was a classy contributor in his 31 minutes out on court as Simone Fontecchio was the real hero paving the way with a solid 20 points at 54 per cent from the field along with 100 per cent accuracy from beyond the arc to seal the deal for Italy.

Australia (84) defeated Nigeria (67)

Australia asserted their dominance over Nigeria to claim a commanding win in their opening game of the Olympics. It was even to start the game with both sides unable to be split at quarter time at 23 points apiece. The tides slowly started to turn as the Boomers got a bit of scoreboard separation to create a three point lead at half time which extended to a six point lead at three quarter time. But the real damage was done in the final term with Patty Mills coming to life and absolutely dominating as Australia piled on 26 points to 15.

Mills came out with a real intensity and fire in the belly for Australia as he got down to business, sinking 25 points with his accuracy from down town well and truly coming to the fore thanks to his five from eight attempts. He also amassed four rebounds, six assists and four steals in an all-round stellar performance. Nic Kay was the next vest with his 12 points and eight rebound efforts as both Dante Exum and Joe Ingles imposed themselves with 11 points apiece in the win. Matisse Thybulle was a menace in defence picking up four rebounds and five steals for the Boomers. It was a tough day at the office for Nigeria as Obi Emegano topscored with 12 points in just 19 minutes of play showcasing just how explosive he can be. Josh Okogie collected 11 points as Jordan Nwora and Precious Achiuwa slotted 10 apiece with the latter also registering six rebounds.

France (83) defeated USA (76)

It was a history-making performance by France, toppling USA and handing them their first Olympic loss in 25 games. The USA got off to a handy start draining 22 points to 15 and extended that margin ever so slightly at half time. But that is where it ended as France put the foot down in the third quarter pouring on 25 points to 11 to well and truly claim the ascendancy. They were unrelenting with their pressure both in offence and defence and did not allow the USA to gain or build any momentum to secure a huge upset win.

It was a remarkable effort by Evan Fournier who led from the front from the opening jump-ball. Fournier finished with 28 points to his name and could have had more if he was more accurate converting at 50 per cent from the field. Rudy Gobert was solid in his 29 minutes racking up 14 points and nine rebounds as Nando De Colo imposed himself with 13 points, five rebounds and five assists. Jrue Holiday was the livewire Team USA needed. Coming off the bench Holiday brought his championship winning mentality into the game draining 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists to keep his country in the race. Damian Lillard managed 11 points but was not at his damaging best as Kevin Durant slotted 10 points but found himself in some foul trouble. Bam Adebayo was dominant, credit to his double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds but it was not enough to get the US over the line.

Photo credit: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

2021 Olympics preview

THE Olympics rolls around every four years, or in this case five given the current climate with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But with that it provides an opportunity for the best athletes and basketballers to culminate in one spot and represent their country. With players stemming from all different leagues and countries expect an action packed couple of weeks of high class basketball both in the men’s and the women’s. Draft Central takes a look at some of the standout players from each nation and potential medallists.

Men’s:

Group A:

Iran
France
USA
Czech Republic

It is fair to assume that the US will once again take out top spot in Group A with the nation renowned for its basketball excellence and sheer star power. The US currently hold the number one ranking in the world, and will be keen to keep that tradition running with a convincing performance in the group stage but will be tested against the likes of France who are likely to give the US a run for their money. Iran and Czech Republic are on the lower end of the FIBA standings but that does not mean they will not be tough competitors.

When looking at top performers it is hard to go past the services of Kevin Durant who has tasted his fair share of success both on the national and international stage. Durant has received a wealth of accolades such as MVP awards in the NBA to being named in the All-NBA team. But one thing he is yet to secure is the coveted gold medal and this could be his opportunity for the US. Playing alongside the likes of Damian Lillard, the up and coming Jayson Tatum and Draymond Green, America are nicely poised to push for a gold medal. Having just won the NBA title with Milwaukee Bucks expect the likes of Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton to have a real fire in their belly to keep that winning momentum happening and to add to their growing trophy cabinet. Rudy Gobert will be the main player in focus for France given his reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year while Nicolas Batum is also a livewire. Tomas Satoransky has proven that he can be a match winner for Czech Republic and will need to unlock that level of heroics throughout the Olympics to give his side a chance.

Group B:

Australia
Germany
Italy
Nigeria

The Boomers have enjoyed a rapid rise over the past couple of years and have showcased their dominance in their past couple of outings with a huge upset win over the US. With this level of momentum and victories already against the likes of Nigeria expect Australia to lead the way in Group B and secure top spot. Nigeria are currently 22nd in the world and will be hoping to increase their standings, while Italy is nicely poised in 10th and will be eager to string together some strong consecutive performances to assert themselves on the contest.

There will be plenty of key contributors across the board but when looking at the Boomers there are a couple of standouts with flagbearer and fan favourite Patty Mills likely to set the court alight. Expect the San Antonio Spurs representative to set the tone with his constant hustle, speed and drive across the court while Joe Ingles is another one to keep an eye on given his NBA experience. Chris Goulding and Jock Landale have been in fine form coming off premiership glory with Melbourne United in the NBL. Throw in the likes of NBA draft hopeful Josh Giddey and the Boomers are shaping up nicely to be real gold medal contenders if they are able to put out consistent high level performances. It has been a while since Germany have competed in basketball but Washington Wizards guard Isaac Bonga will be hoping to make an impact, while for Italy keep an eye out for the experienced Nicolo Melli. Nigeria have eight players currently in the NBA highlighting the extreme depth the nation has, making for an exciting pool of action.

Group C: 

Argentina
Japan
Spain
Slovenia

Group C is going to create plenty of intrigue with the host nation, in Japan the lowest ranked country heading into the event. It is the first time that Japan has competed in basketball since 1976 and they will be hoping to improve their output this time around. However it will not be easy up against the likes of Spain who hold second spot in the FIBA rankings, while Argentina are also no easy beats given their fourth placed ranking. Expect the contest between Argentina and Spain to be enthralling as the two nations go head-to-head in order to secure the number one position in the group.

There is no denying that Luka Doncic is the main draw card for Slovenia with the guard an imposing figure in the NBA and likely to bring that attitude into the Olympics. Expect Doncic to carry the weight of his nation and lead from the front to give his country a chance to propel past the group stage. For Japan, Yudai Baba will hoping to use his NBL experience to full advantage when he takes the court, while both Rui Hachiamura and Yuta Watanbe are also imposing figures both in stature and game play. Watanbe stands at six foot nine inches, and will not be overwhelmed by the bigger bodies credit to his three years with the Toronto Raptors in the NBA. All eyes will be on Argentinian veteran Luis Scola who is suiting up for his fifth Olympics campaign while Spain are littered with match winners. For Spain they have a couple of tried and tested campaigners that will be eager to lead the way with Marc Gasol and his brother Pau Gasol more than capable of hitting the scoreboard while Ricky Rubio should not be underestimated.

Prediction:

Gold medal: Australia
Silver medal: USA
Bronze medal: Spain

Women’s:

Group A:

Korea
Serbia
Canada
Spain

Group A is the most stacked pool with three nations inside the top 10 all competing. With the men not qualifying for Serbia the hopes of a nation rest on the shoulders of the women’s team. Serbia are more than capable of dominating and have proven that time and time again. But the pool is littered with top contenders as Spain are no slouches and in fact sit higher in the FIBA rankings currently holding onto third spot while Canada is hot on their heels sitting in fourth spot. The battle for prime position will go right down to the wire.

Regulars at the Olympics, Canada will be hoping that their big names such as Kia Nurse and Natalie Achonwa are able to step up to the challenge and pave the way. Nurse is no slouch and has a wealth of accolades to her name having played both in the NBL and NBA. For Spain, expect the likes of Astou Ndour to lead the way given her WNBA experience if she is to assert herself on the competition.

Group B:

Nigeria
Japan
France
USA

The US will be eager to maintain their number one status and take out the top of the table for Group B. They are renowned for their depth and talent but will have to be on their a-game up against the likes of France who have proven to be real fighters. Japan will be hoping to do their nation proud and create a couple of upsets, while Nigeria sit 17th in the world but are more than capable of causing upsets aplenty.

USA have the weight of the nation on their shoulders as they look for their seventh straight gold medal at these Olympic games. Littered with star players across the court the US will be hoping that the likes of Ariel Atkins, Breanna Stewart and Sylvia Fowles are able to step up to the plate and dominate. As one of the most experienced heads out on court expect Sue Bird to have a huge influence on team USA when things get heated. France will be hoping that they are able to rally together to generate some real momentum with the likes of Marine Johannes at the helm.

Group C:

Australia
Puerto Rico
China
Belgium

Australia would be quietly confident heading into the group stage of the Olympics having knocked off the US only weeks earlier and with a head full of steam. The Boomers are locked into second spot on the world standings with Belgium likely to be their toughest competitors in the early stages given they are ranked sixth. China are no easy beats and will be hoping to hit their straps to rise up the ladder while Puerto Rico will be hoping to leave nothing in the tank and make a name for themselves.

The Opals will be without the services of Liz Cambage but that will not stop them as the likes of Ezi Magbegor and Bec Allen look set to take the reins. Throw in the likes of Steph Talbot and Leilani Mitchell and Australia have a strong cohort of players able to impose themselves on the contest and score easily. Having qualified for their first Olympics expect the likes of Belgium representative Emma Meesseman to lead the way credit to her WNBA experience and finals credentials.

Prediction:

Gold medal: USA
Silver medal: Australia
Bronze medal: Canada

 

Photo credit: Basketball Australia