Sapphires medal hopes dashed
From correspondents in Sibenik, Croatia
August 2, 2003
AUSTRALIA has been knocked out of medal contention at the under-22 women's basketball world championships in Croatia by the United States. America, the tournament favourite, overpowered the Sapphires 80-56 to relegate them to a playoff for fifth.
Christi Thomas paced the US with 13 points while Michelle Musselwhite was the best of the Australians with 18 points and five rebounds, shooting an impressive 6-of-9 from the field and 4-of-4 from three-point range.
Hollie Grima added 15 points and four rebounds while Shelley Hammonds had nine points and seven boards.
Sapphires coach Mark Wright was disappointed with the result but praised the effort of his team, who went into the match as the decided underdogs.
"We had a great game plan and started tremendously," said Wright after the game.
"We played some tough defence but just couldnt put the ball in the hole.
"Against a team as good as the US, that just kills you.
"We missed a lot of shots underneath the basket, something which has haunted us throughout this tournament.
"They were just too strong, too powerful and shot the ball too well.
"All credit to our girls however as they never gave up and played as a team right to the end."
Wright said the Sapphires would now focus on picking themselves up for their remaining games.
"Our aim now is to finish as high as we possibly can in this tournament," he said.
"Everyone's obviously very disappointed right now but we want to try to finish fifth."
The early going in the game demonstrated the defensive nature of the battle, with both teams having scored just six points between them through the first five minutes.
The Americans were the first to break the defensive shackles however and finished the first quarter up 24-8.
The Sapphires recovered in the second and outscored the Americans for the period but still trailed 42-28 at the half.
The third period saw the Australians exert some pressure on the US, closing to within 10 points with one minute left in the period.
The US responded after a timeout however and stretched the margin back to 16, 59-43, by the final change.
In the last period the Sapphires threw everything at the Americans but were unable to bridge the gap, eventually going down by 24 points.
The Sapphires will face the loser of the quarter-final between France and the Peoples Republic of China tomorrow.