AUS HAND USA FIRST EVER LOSS AT U17 WORLD CHAMPS TO BOOK SPOT IN GRAND FINAL

AUS HAND USA FIRST EVER LOSS AT U17 WORLD CHAMPS TO BOOK SPOT IN GRAND FINAL

The Jayco Australian Sapphires have handed the USA their first ever loss in the history of the FIBA Under-17 World Championships, winning 73-60 to book a spot in the gold medal game early Sunday morning.

Bringing a 28-0 record at the World Champs into the Semi-Final, the USA faced an Australian side that had never medalled.

Australia showed no signs of nerves though, recording a wire-to-wire victory as they held their opponents to 14 points under their tournament average.

The Sapphires' trademark defence kept the USA's leading scorer, Christyn Williams, to just two points on 1-9 shooting as well while their opposition shot 1-14 from the three-point line and 31% from the field overall as a team.

The Americans found out about Australia's tough interior defence very quickly as they were held scoreless through the first three minutes but even more impressive was the Sapphires' ability to score on the fast break.

The Sapphires forwards continually beat the USA's down the court and while they owned a three-point advantage at quarter-time, that margin quickly expanded thanks to the pace of Abby Cubillo, Ezi Magbegor and Jazmin Shelley.

Cubillo (eight points, four assists) also put her body on the line at the defensive end, drawing a charge as Australia repelled any attack the USA threw at them to lead 36-27 at half-time.

Coach Shannon Seebohm gambled on keeping Magbegor on the floor to start the third period but the move quickly saw the centre get into foul trouble.

The Sapphires remained steadfast under the rim though thanks to Lucy Cochrane (three points, nine rebounds, four blocks) who combined with Rebecca Pizzey to help Australia open up a double-digit lead.

Full court pressure from Monique Conti (ten points, three asssits, two steals) and Kiera Rowe (nine points) was also instrumental in extending the margin before Shelley drained three-pointers from each corner to give Australia a 12-point lead going into the final change.

The Americans had one last attack left in them in the fourth quarter with Olivia Nelson-Ododa recording a double-double of 17 points and ten rebounds but the Aussies remained calm under the leadership of Seebohm to clinch the historic win.

Despite eventually fouling out, Magbegor was brilliant with ten points, ten rebounds and four blocks in what looked like a more confident offensive game from the centre.

The Sapphires were paced by captain Shelley though, who shot 8-20 for 23 points, eight boards, five assists and two steals.

The box score from the game can be found here while (an unfortunately interrupted) live-stream of the clash can be seen below.

The Australians will now earn a night off before they face Italy in the gold medal game early Sunday morning at 5am AEST. Keep an eye on Basketball Australia's social media channels for links to the live-stream.

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