Image: Getty Images
By David McPherson
Six games against our six top ranked opponents and an average winning margin of just under 42 points. Australian basketball is rolling at the Commonwealth Games.
With the preliminary rounds done and dusted and Cairns and Townsville now in the rear-view mirror for our Opals and Boomers as they head to the Gold Coast for knockout play, it’s time to take stock.
On the men’s side of the competition our Boomers sit undefeated in Pool A, having posted three wins against Canada, New Zealand and Nigeria.
Canada and Nigeria provided little resistance as the Aussies posted winning margins of 40 and 42 points respectively, while New Zealand announced themselves as our one serious medal contender.
New Zealand led the Boomers at all changes and were in many respects the better team as Australia escaped with a six-point victory thanks to the heroics of Nick Kay.
“They were really physical and I think they exposed us with that early on. We were a bit on edge and weren’t executing the way we needed to and that’s a credit to their pressure,” Kay said post match.
The Tall Blacks dominated the glass and pulled down 14 more boards than Australia – something which the Boomers will be looking to rectify.
Star guard Chris Goulding agreed that the Boomers are on a collision course to face New Zealand in the gold medal match.
“New Zealand is always a great opponent and they showed that tonight, they outplayed us for most of the game and we were lucky to come away with a win,” he said.
“New Zealand, I would say, will be our toughest test without looking too far ahead, so we definitely have to get better between now and whenever the knockout stages are, but we always feel confident.”
Goulding sat out our final game against Nigeria with a sore knee but said he’ll be ‘even fitter than before’ once the finals roll around this Saturday and Sunday.
The Opals on the other hand weren’t troubled with any side they came across in the group stage, carving through the opposition and secure winning margins of 60, 39 and 63 points.
Liz Cambage has proved too much for any opponent to handle, averaging 25.7 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game despite coach Sandy Brondello spreading the playing time between all 12 Opals on the roster.
Stephanie Talbot has also looked in fine touch while Ezi Magbegor has shown great flashes at just 18 years of age.
Coach Sandy Brondello has been impressed with the work of the Opals debutant.
“You’ve got Liz [Cambage] in that first unit and you have a different look with Ezi because of her mobility. For an 18-year-old she’s doing extremely well.”
Teammate Cayla George agrees the potential of Magbegor is sky high.
“It’s been the best thing for an 18-year-old like Ezi to make her debut here. I feel like a veteran of the team, but it has been great guiding Ezi on her international debut and being part of the team,” she said.
“Ezi is going to be a superstar.”
Both the Opals and Boomers now await their semi-final opponents as the remaining teams play off in qualifying finals before joining our Aussies on the Gold Coast to begin knockout play.