Bronze a sweet victory for Opals

Australia have put the disappointment of a semi-final loss to the USA behind them to win the bronze medal match in women’s basketball at North Greenwich Arena.

The Opals proved too strong for opponents Russia, getting on top early in the physical battle and going on to win 83-74. Veteran Suzy Batkovic was instrumental in setting up the win with a tremendous first half, and the team finished it off in style from there.

Driven by Batkovic’s power play and excellent shooting, the Opals were able to go to halftime with an eight-point lead. She had provided a great presence under the basket at the offensive end, and the Russians couldn’t handle her.

Batkovic finished the first half as the leading scorer from both sides, with 12 points. She also had four rebounds, as did Lauren Jackson.

Australia led 17-16 after a first quarter in which the Russians had led by as much as four points.

The lead changed hands several times early in the second term, before the Opals went on a 7-0 scoring run to lead 26-20. The lead got as big as 10 points late in the half, but the Russians cut it back to eight, 38-30, with the last basket before the main break.
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Australia shot at a terrific 58 per cent (15 from 26) in the first half, compared to 38 per cent (13 from 34) by Russia. The Aussies had also led the rebounding, 20-16, including 17-10 at the defensive end.

Kristi Harrower had also contributed strongly in the first half, with nine points. Rachel Jarry had made six. The Opals had made more turnovers (eight to six) than the Russians, but their opponents hadn’t made them pay.

Russia made a run immediately the third quarter began, cutting Australia’s lead by five points, back to 38-35, but the Opals answered brilliantly, embarking on a 10-0 run of their own to lead by 13, 48-35.

The Russians were always going to be under pressure to make it back from there, as long as the Aussies remained focused.

Russia cut the lead back to nine with a series of successful free throws, but again the Aussies responded, this time with an 8-0 run to lead by 17, 56-39. The Opals led 57-43 at the end of three quarters.

The Aussies just had to remain committed to see the win home from there, and when the Russians came at them early in the final quarter they responded well.

Russia made another determined run to cut the deficit to five points with 80 seconds left with Batkovic having fouled out, but Australia lifted their intensity again to make sure of victory.

Greg Prichard in London
Olympics.com.au