The Opals kicked off their World Cup Qualifying Tournament on Thursday night with a 65-52 win over Brazil. The first of three games in the tournament in the lead up to the FIBA World Cup scheduled for September in Sydney.
Flyers players Sara Blicavs, Maddison Rocci and Kristy Wallace all got action time on court and where alongside coach Cheryl Chambers as she assisted delivering the Opals victory.
The energy was there for the Opals from the first tip and you could tell this group were excited to put their practice to work. Brazil were kept scoreless for the first six minutes of the match allowing the Opals the buffer that was maintained all game.
Sara Blicavs was the first Flyer to put points on the board as she went three for three at the stripe. Maddison Rocci played floor general with her two assists and brought the intensity on defence which stood out as the Opals winning piece. Kristy Wallace knows how to fit into a defensive unit and she displayed this in her short time on court with two defensive rebounds.
Opals Captain, Sami Whitcomb started the night off well scoring the first five points and setting the bar for intensity. Brazil eventually put buckets away with a spark from their second unit, cutting the deficit back to 10 points at quarter time, 20-10.
Opals star Darcee Garbin opened up the second quarter with Whitcomb to push the lead out to as much as 19 points. This Opals team has a lot of depth with leaders Bec Allen and Cayla George providing experience to the squad. George dominated boards as Brazil kept trying to answer but the Opals increased their lead at the half with a late three from Opals debutant, Shyla Heal.
With the Opals starting the second half up 36-20, it was no surprise the Brazilians came out with more fight in the third and fatigue was setting in for a few players on court, remembering they had travelled to Serbia for the games. Rocci and Blicavs stepped in with some fresher legs and the Opals lead would still be out to 17 going into the last term, 53-36.
Wallace would get her first run in the last quarter and start to get a feel for the game. The Opals remained dominant but Brazil continued to work to get back into the game but were still 13 points down when the buzzer sounded, 65-52.
Allen top scored for the Opals with 16 points and Marianna Tolo showed assertiveness inside with 12 points and 4 blocks. The game provided a good chance for the team to compete together for the first time and will no doubt give them confidence for their next match ups.
Next game will be against the Qualifying Cup host country, Serbia, at 7am on Sunday. The third and final game of the World Cup Qualifying Tournament for the Opals will be against Korea at 1am on Monday.