Day 5 Women: AUS 84 - BRA 66
Lauren leads opals into last eight
ATHENS (Olympics) - Australia prevailed over Brazil in a battle of women's basketball superpowers to march into a Olympic quarter-final against fellow Oceania side New Zealand.
Led by centre Lauren Jackson, widely regarded as the world's top player, the Opals beat the South American giants 84-66.
The triumph means they go into the knockout stages unbeaten with five wins, and it also sends out a loud message to the United States that they can expect a fight for gold.
Jackson was virtually unstoppable, pouring in 24 points on eight of 16 shooting.
In her points haul were three three-pointers.
Perhaps most impressive for the Australians is that they kept their composure when Brazil's offence got into a rhythm early in the first quarter, and then again at the start of the second half.
Australia led 40-35 half-time, but Brazil went on a 6-0 run and held a 41-40 advantage with two Alessandra free throws putting the team in front.
But point guard Kristi Harrower responded with a jumpshot just above the free throw line to put Australia ahead again and the Opals built a 10-point lead over the next four minutes.
Jan Stirling's bench was outstanding, particularly guard Belinda Snell who played 30 minutes and offered the type of pressure defence which makes this Australian team so good.
Penny Taylor had 15 points and captain Trish Fallon added 13, while Helen's 16 paced the Brazilians, who now are looking at a very difficult quarter-final against Spain, Group B's second place team.
From Jeff Taylor, PA International, Athens
Belinda SNELL, guard (AUS)
On the game:
"It was a tough game but we won easily at the end because we were concetrated and played very good defense against a very good offensive team."
On the next game against New Zealand:
"They are playing very physical, but I think if we play our normal game we will qualify to semi finals."
On their gold medal chances:
"We have the talent and the skills to beat the American team, if we qualify to the final. Our main goal is to win the gold medal and I am very oprimistic about our chances."
Helen Christina LUZ, guard (BRA)
On the game:
"We started the game well, but our second hlaf performance was awful. We made lots of mistakes and we played terrible defense. "
On their opponent in the quarter-finals:
"The game against Spain for the quarter-finals it's our new beginning in this tournament. Our debut in the Olympics it's in this game against the Spanish team. We have one day off to relax and practice in order to improve our game and chase our chances for one medal."
|Press conference quotes:|
Lauren JACKSON, Forward (AUS)
"We are really happy with the result, we are No 1 in our pool which is where we wanted to be. Brazil played really hard, and all credit to them for staying in the game. It was an awesome game, very close, and we did not relax until the end when we had the win. It will be tough from here on in. It might become a football match against New Zealand. We'll play as best as we can and give it our all. We might improve our defense, but overall we are where we need to be. We have come an awesome way these past two weeks. Winning the gold medal is our motivation.
Playing New Zealand with Tom (MAHER) as coach will be tough. I love him, he's a great coach. I might say hello to him after the game!
I'm having treatment to my ankle. I was injected a couple of days ago. It's an injury I brought into the games but I will play, no problem.
I'd play the United States for the gold any time."
Jan STIRLING, Head Coach (AUS)
"It was a tough, physical, well-coached game, and it challenged us in all different areas. I love playing Brazil; it's a quality team that always gives us a tough challenge.
Lauren (JACKSON)'s injury is a repetitive strain type of injury, a shin split, which will heal only when she takes a season off. But she's a war horse, and she will play with it. If the medical team says she's not in a position to play, that's off my hands. I don't think I will be able to keep her off court; she'll probably shoot me and she's bigger than me.
Both groups were tough. We're happy we didn't play against the US. We played against Russia, which is a tough, wonderful team that can do anything. Brazil is a great team also. From here on in games will get tougher. For New Zealand, it's their second Olympic campaign. They first time they played in Sydney unscouted by other teams, so they came here unknown to their opponents. We have previous knowledge of them, and they deserved the right to play in the quarterfinals. We will respect them for that."
Antonio BARBOSA, Head Coach (BRA)
"Australia is a very strong team. They have a consistent game philosophy, making few mistakes, efficient in their game and featuring good players. Both teams are similar. If we had scored more points in the last quarter, the outcome of the game would have been different. 35% from the field is not a good percentage.
For me, it's now that the championship begins. Spain is a great team, similar to ours, with good players.
I decided to rest Alessandra (OLIVEIRA) in the second half. She had already scored 12, and she normally doesn't play more than 25 minutes anyway. It's a long championship, and we need to rotate the players. We need everybody rested to give good performances in the next games."
Alessandra OLIVEIRA, Center (BRA)
"Australia played really well. It was a good game. We were not good defensively, and that was our biggest problem. We committed many turnovers as well. It was the coach's decision not to play me in the second half, I am not injured, thank God."
Source: Athens news service