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Australian Opals finish on top of their pool

Australia has beaten Japan and secured the coveted top position in Group B of the FIBA women’s World Cup and will play fifth ranked Belgium in Thursday’s quarter final.

Australia needed either Serbia to beat France or Mali to defeat Croatia to have any chance of finishing on top. Canada won 88-65 before Serbia defeated France 68-62 to hand the Opals control of their own destiny against the Olympic silver medallists.

The home team started slugglishly but assumed control during the third quarter and won 71-54.

Australia have finished on top of Group B at the FIBA women’s World Cup.
Camera IconAustralia have finished on top of Group B at the FIBA women’s World Cup. Credit: Kelly Defina/Getty Images

By finishing on top, Australia guaranteed they can’t face tournament favourite USA unless they reach the gold medal game. The Opals overcame being in “the group of death” given five of the six teams were ranked inside the world’s top 10.

“We accomplished our goal of finishing on top of our group,” Opals coach Sandy Brondello said.

“That’s what we wanted to do at the start of the tournament. We had a little hiccup at the beginning but I’m really proud. It’s just our persistence and hanging in there and continuing to stay together and play tough at both ends of the floor. Hopefully we can keep building.

WA’s Sami Whitcomb continued her outstanding tournament, top scoring with 15 points including four three-pointers, while also having three assists, two steals and one block.

Former Perth Lynx captain Darcee Garbin again made the most of her minutes as the Opals overcame being without star Ben Allen (ribs) for a second successive game.

Former Perth Lynx captain Darcee Garbin is seizing every opportunity.
Camera IconFormer Perth Lynx captain Darcee Garbin is seizing every opportunity. Credit: Mark Baker/AP

Whitcomb has a black eye, a cut nose and her knee taped but has been influential while handling a huge workload.

“It was physical as all of the games have been in this pool,” Whitcomb said.

“I’m really proud of our effort. It’s really tough to get to this final game where you’ve exerted all of your energy up to this point and back up again.”

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