Australia is through to the quarter-finals of the FIBA Women’s World Cup after defeating Canada 75-72 in a thriller on Monday night.
With one group stage game remaining, the Opals are guaranteed a spot in the knockout stage — with Canada, France and Serbia all qualifying from Group B.
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Sara Blicavs moved into the starting five replacing the injured Bec Allen, who copped a nasty knock to the ribs in Sunday’s win over Serbia.
Ezi Magbegor was the star for the Opals against Canada, producing a stellar performance on both the offensive and defensive ends as the 23-year-old exploded for her best game of the tournament.
With the Canadians shooting the lights out in the first half, Magbegor turned the tide with some epic blocks in the second quarter as the Opals went on a 19-0 run in the second quarter.
She finished with 16 points and five blocks, while Steph Talbot was excellent with 11 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Australia managed to turn a 14-point deficit into a five-point halftime lead and the Opals had the Sydney Superdome rocking.
The Opals trailed by six at three quarter time before the Opals rallied again to claim a thrilling three-point victory.
Down six points with 19 seconds remaining, Canada had the ball but chose to run down the clock and shoot a three-pointer, seemingly playing for points differential rather than the win.
Basketball fans loved what they saw from the Opals and couldn’t get enough of the thrilling game.
ESPN’s Kane Pitman tweeted: “Opals-Canada is absolute insanity. Both teams shooting 50 per cent from three, some of the individual defence has been for the highlight reel. “Unbelievable crowd to top it off. Really fun game.”
Sports presenter Nick Quinn said: “That could be the match of the tournament. What a win by the Opals. More momentum swings than a game of T20 cricket.”
Australia, Canada and France are all level on three wins and one loss in Group B with one game each remaining.
The Opals have won their last three games but despite their impressive turnaround in form, their opening loss to France could still come back to bite them.
The tournament hosts have a poor points difference and would finish third if all three top teams end up on 4-1 in Group B.
The Opals need to beat Japan on Tuesday night, hope Serbia beats France and they get a favourable ballot draw to avoid facing undefeated favourites the USA in the quarter-finals.
Opals at Women’s World Cup (Group B)
France defeat Australian 70-57
Australia defeat Mali 118-58
Australia defeat Serbia 69-54
Australia vs Japan (Tuesday September 27)