FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022: Heartbreak for the Opals as China snatch late win in semi-final thriller

SYDNEY — It came all the way down to the final possession as China held their nerve down the stretch to secure their spot in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup final, defeating Australia 61-59.

Australia had a chance to take the lead in the final 24 seconds, but couldn’t get a shot off, resulting in a 24-second violation, leaving China with one possession to make it count. 

With the game tied at 59-59, Siyu Wang was fouled with just 3.0 seconds remaining and calmly buried both free throws to put China in front. 

Coming out of the timeout, Australia inbounded the ball to Ezi Magbegor who got her shot off with time to spare, but it refused to go down, sealing China’s passage to the gold medal game. 

“Obviously disappointed, you get this far you want to try and get to the gold medal game,” Opals head coach Sandy Brondello told reporters post-game.

“Proud of our effort, congratulations to China really grinded it out tonight.

“Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck and we didn’t shoot the ball as well, so we’ve just got to try and regroup now, it’s a real quick turnaround with a 1:00 p.m. game, and hopefully we’ll get that bronze medal and cap off a solid week for us.”

Magbegor had nearly single-handedly clawed the Opals back into the contest in the third quarter, scoring eight points in a two-and-a-half minute stretch as Australia showed plenty of grit on the defensive end, taking some positives from the loss.

“We’ve shown this tournament that we can get ourselves out of holes and we haven’t been able to show that at previous tournaments so I think just being able to stay in the game,  credit to us obviously it was up until the very last second,” Magbegor told The Sporting News postgame. 

“We stayed in it, China was the better team tonight but we’ve just got to get better tomorrow.”

Australia has less than 15 hours before they have to hit the court again, with Canada awaiting them in the bronze medal game. 

The Opals pulled off a 75-72 win over Canada in the Group Phase, but Magbegor is expecting an even tougher contest Saturday afternoon.

“There’s always areas we can get better in and we’ll head to the locker room now, have a meeting tomorrow morning and just go from there,” she said. 

“There’s definitely things we want to work on and changes we can make.”

The raucous crowd of 11,916 rode every bucket, with both sets of fans deafening the Sydney SuperDome.

“It was very loud, I think we definitely heard it coming onto the court and then throughout the game it was super loud, but like I said it’s nice the fans showed up for women’s basketball in Australia,”  Magbegor added.

With tonight’s win, China has secured its first medal at a World Cup since winning silver in Australia in 1994.

China will look to star center Han Xu to continue her impressive form in Sydney in the gold medal game after dropping 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting, adding 11 rebounds and five blocks.

Sami Whitcomb led the Opals with 15 points and three assists, while Magbegor finished with 12 points, six rebounds and two assists. Steph Talbot added 12 points and 10 rebounds in the loss. 

China will take on Team USA in the World Cup final on Saturday, October 1, with tip-off set for 4:00 p.m. AEST, meanwhile, Australia will battle Canada for bronze at 1:00 p.m. AEST.

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