SAPPHIRES DEFEAT OLD FOE NZ AT NEW FIBA U16 ASIA CHAMPS

SAPPHIRES DEFEAT OLD FOE NZ AT NEW FIBA U16 ASIA CHAMPS

The Australian Sapphires have gotten their quest to qualify for the 2018 Under-17 Worlds off to the perfect start with a 61-43 victory over New Zealand in the first game of their Under-16 Asia Championships.

It was a defensive tussle to open the game as the teams combined to shoot 5-31 in the first quarter but Last-Tear Poa (six points, three assists) finally broke the shackles with four quick points at the start of the second term.

That sparked a 6-0 run for the Sapphires and they held their opponents scoreless for nine minutes of game time to create a double-digit lead.

While New Zealand came back at them with a couple of shots courtesy of Charlisse Leger-Walker, the Sapphires' domination on the glass began to take effect and they brought down 15 offensive boards by half-time to garner a 21-12 edge.

Australia maintained that defensive pressure into the third term while Eliza Hollingsworth (ten points, two steals, two blocks) connected on back-to-back shots before Olivia Pollerd drilled their first three-pointer of the game.

Isabel Palmer followed up with her own triple and the Sapphires looked to be cruising on the back of a 12-2 run to give them a new highest lead.

However, once again, a late push from New Zealand kept them in the contest as they trimmed the deficit back to 16 at three-quarter time with their momentum only halted by a late steal and jumper from Palmer (ten points, two steals).

Kicking off the final term in style, Shyla Heal (ten points, six rebounds, four steals) found her way to the basket but the Kiwi's were not going down without a fight and sent a few scares through the Aussie camp down the stretch.

Heal stood in their way though, scoring four quick points in a row to notch double-figures herself and finally put New Zealand away.

After a sluggish start, the Sapphires shot 32% as a team, holding New Zealand to just 27% while 15 of their 25 field goals came from assists.

Find the box score here.

Australia are back on court tomorrow night, taking on Chinese Taipei where they can all but sew up top spot in Pool A with a victory.

The Australian Sapphires Schedule for the 2017 FIBA Under-16 Women’s Asia Championships (all times AEDT):

October 23: Australia vs. Chinese Taipei at 6.45pm
October 24: Australia vs. Korea at 4.30pm
October 26: Quarter-Finals
October 27: Semi-Finals
October 28: Bronze and Gold Medals

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