China breaks Australian hearts with last second win, Opals to play for bronze
China has outlasted Australia to earn a place in the gold medal game at the FIBA Women’s World Cup in Sydney in front of a roaring crowd of 11,916 fans.
Chinese guard Siyu Wang made two free throws with three seconds to play to give her nation a 61-59 semi-final win and a chance to face the USA in Saturday’s gold medal game.
Ezi Magbegor’s last-second contested lay-up rimmed out to see China take victory and lock in its first medal since the 1994 event which was also hosted in Sydney.
Siyu Wang of China celebrates.Credit:Getty Images
The Opals will face Canada for bronze in the earlier game on Saturday.
Sami Whitcomb led the Opals with 15 points while Magbegor and Steph Talbot had 12 points each.
Chinese centre Han Xu was the difference in the game with 19 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks while Wang had 14 points and Liwei Yang 18 points.
China lost star shooter Meng Li pre-game. She was reportedly sidelined with illness.
The opening was typically frantic as the two teams traded baskets but Whitcomb gave the home side an 11-8 lead with a three midway through the quarter and Jackson’s late introduction again paid dividends as drawing three fouls and making two free throws to make it 17-13 at quarter-time.
Anguish for the Opals.Credit:Getty Images
Jackson’s offensive rebound led to another Whitcomb three early in the second term but Han’s introduction changed the contest as she blocked a Jackson shot and proceeded to score her first 13 points in an eight-minute span helping her nation to a 36-30 lead at the half.
The Opals paid dearly for missing three lay-ups in the first half while their overall shooting was just 27 per cent in the face of relentless pressure from China.
Jackson wouldn’t play again with coach Sandy Brondello favouring Magbegor, George and Marianna Tolo.
Ezi Magbegor scored three layups to start the third as the Opals ate into China’s lead, although Han’s defensive presence only grew taking her tally to five blocks midway through the quarter.
China’s frustrations with foul calls against them grew but they maintained a lead while Whitcomb was lucky to avoid a serious ankle injury when Ru Zhang underneath her after a three-point shot.
Yang’s shooting kept the Opals’ defence honest but Han continued to score around the basket as China held a 47-44 lead going into the last quarter.
Marianna Tolo brought the Opals to within a point of China early in the last but two layups and some missed opportunities saw China grow their edge to five points with six minutes to play.
But a George three and a steal and lay-up by Whitcomb tied the scores with five minutes to play then Bec Allen, playing with bruised ribs, scored a tough lay-up to briefly take the lead before China tied it again setting up a pulsating finish.
The Opals had a two-point lead entering the final minute but China forced a steal and Weina Jin scored to tie the scores then Australia went scoreless on its next possession giving China 22 seconds to win the game and they did just that.
USA dominates Canada to roll into gold medal game
When Canada avoided a match-up with Team USA in the quarter-finals, coach Victor Lapena exclaimed that the 10-time world champions were from “a different planet, they’re playing Space Jam”.
On Friday night, his side faced the Space Jam team and didn’t have Michael Jordan to save them as the Americans cruised to an 83-43 win in their semi-final at Qudos Bank Arena on Friday night.
The USA will play for their 11th world title on Saturday afternoon against China. It will be the USA’s fourth-consecutive world cup final.
USA superstar Breanna Stewart led her country with 17 points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes while A’ja Wilson had 15 points and 12 rebounds in 20 minutes.
No Canadian player scored in double figures with forward Laeticia Amihere top-scoring eight points.
USA wing Kahleah Copper sat out with a hip injury and is listed as questionable for the gold medal game.
The USA left nothing to chance against Canada, bolting out to a 27-7 quarter-time lead and never being headed.
But Canada will rue missed opportunities early in the match when they forced the Americans into six turnovers in that quarter but failed to score from those extra possessions.
The USA continued to attack the basket while Canada’s offence was struck in the mud with Breanna Stewart finding her mark and Chelsea Gray playing the creator with seven of her eight assists early in the game.
The margin continued to grow in the third term as USA cycled their players and managed their minutes, keeping Canada to just seven points for the quarter while USA rookie Sabrina Ionescu gave her fans something to cheer about when she nailed a running three-pointer on the three-quarter-time buzzer.
USA coach Cheryl Reeve could swing the minutes around in the final quarter and that saw a modest Canadian resurgence as they only lost the quarter 16-14.
The bronze medal game will be at 1pm on Saturday and the gold medal game at 4pm.
Meanwhile, Bendigo Spirit has signed WNBL games record holder Kelly Wilson, who will play her 20th season with the club when the new campaign begins in November.
Wilson has played 411 games and won two of her four championships with the Spirit in 2013 and 2014.
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