Opals set up quarter-final against China

By Guy Hand, NZ Newswire Updated August 6, 2012, 6:21 am

Expect the Opals to scratch, bite and street fight their way to the Olympic Games gold medal.

So says coach Carrie Graf after Australia's women's basketball team was forced to again dig deep under pressure to beat Canada by nine points in the last Group B preliminary ahead of Tuesday's quarter-finals.

The Opals' 72-63 win means they will play China in their quarter-final after world No.1 United States smashed the Chinese 114-66 on Sunday.

And with the cross-over pools setting up a showdown with gold medal favourites US in the semi-finals after physical China in the quarters, Graf has little doubt her team has the mongrel within to deal with whatever is thrown at them.

"We've got some streetfighters on our team and we've got players who won't roll over in any game," Graf said.

"We're going to grind it out, dig it out, scratch, bite, do whatever it takes to find a way to win.

"If you met our girls on the street and they had to get themselves out of something, we've got some big, strong women that won't shy away from a dogfight."

So far size and grit have got the Opals this far in the tournament, without all the elements of their game coming together at any one time.

With France taking top spot in the group with a win over Russia on Sunday, the Opals secured second place with their victory.

But it came on the rawest of nerves after they had started like bullets and led by as much as 19 points before Canada closed to within two late.

Yet again it was giants Liz Cambage and Lauren Jackson - combined with bursts of excellent defence and Belinda Snell's three-point-shooting - that got them home.

Cambage finished with 19 points - 11 in a stunning first quarter onslaught as Australia went on a 12-0 run to start the game and limited Canada to 22 points for the first half.

But the Canadians, chasing fourth place and their quarter-final spot, launched at Australia in the third quarter.

Fittingly Jackson made the game safe with four successive pairs of free throws and two clutch rebounds in the final minute of play, finishing with 18 for the match.

Smith top-scored for Canada with 17 points.

Canada now play the US in their quarter-final.

In other quarter-final match-ups, France play the Czech Republic and Russia will take on Turkey.

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