Coach Sandy Brondello says the Opals are prepared for the possibility of Bec Allen missing game time after she was treated by paramedics for a suspected rib injury late in Australia’s 69-54 defeat of Serbia at the FIBA Women’s World Cup
Allen first left the court with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter on Sunday but needed to be assisted off again just minutes later when she reeled out of a contest for the ball, clutching her side.
The 29-year-old appeared to be struggling for breath and left Qudos Bank Arena in a wheelchair as she found walking too painful.
Allen led her teammates with 16 points against Serbia and was one of the Opals’ best against France on the first night of the tournament.
“It’s the next person up if she has to miss a game here or there,” Brondello told reporters.
“It would be really unfortunate because she’s played really well for us. She’s a key member of our team.”
Brondello said the Opals were unsure as to the extent of Allen’s injury but suspected she had hurt her ribs.
“We’ll just have to wait for the doctor,” she said.
“I think she got crushed when she went for the ball, in her ribs. She doesn’t have a lot of beef on her.”
Australia and Serbia have developed an unlikely rivalry in recent years.
The Serbs denied the Opals a shot at a sixth straight Olympic medal with a quarter-final win at the Rio Games.
They also defeated the Opals on the road to the World Cup after Australia’s Steph Talbot was ejected for elbowing Jovona Nogic.
There was plenty of feeling in Sunday’s rematch at Qudos Bank Arena, not least when guard Sami Whitcomb was hit by an arm to the face in the third quarter and left the court claiming her nose had been broken.
The Australians were determined to gain an edge over their rivals this time, lest they slip behind in the race to advance from the highly competitive Group B.
Their early dominance came down to physical defence as Australia forced Serbia into five shot-clock violations in the first quarter and kept them to 10 points.
Serbia began to fight back in the second quarter when Yvonne Anderson had her minutes increased and finished the half with 14 points.
Fittingly, Talbot played a significant role in the Australian atonement, restricting Anderson to two second-half points and sinking a three-pointer in the second quarter that gave Australia what was then a game-high lead.
Serbia found another strike weapon in Sasa Cado (12 points) but the Opals had their own avenues to the basket in Allen, Marianna Tolo and Whitcomb, who hit a three-pointer less than 30 seconds after coming back on from her blow to the nose.
“I was happy with our execution,” Brondello said after the win over Serbia.
“We did what we needed to do today and we have to focus now to Canada and know that it’s going to be another battle for us.”
The Opals are now 2-1 and if they win their final two games of the group stage, against Canada and Japan, are all but certain to dodge a quarter-final meeting with red-hot tournament favourites the USA.
Earlier, France posted an unconvincing 74-59 defeat of Mali, while Canada kept their unbeaten start to the tournament alive with a 70-56 win over Japan to remain a game clear atop Group B.