CANBERRA (U21 Women national team) - In front of an 800-strong crowd at Broadmeadows in Victoria, the Sapphires (Australia’s under 21 women’s basketball team) notched the first win of their 2007 U21 FIBA World Championship for Women preparatory campaign last night.
Playing the University of Wyoming Cowgirls, a touring American college side, the Sapphires were relentless in registering victory, delighting the enthusiastic crowd with the 73-47 result.
The Sapphires were coming off a four game losing streak against the Japanese Senior National Women’s Team, who are currently ranked 15th in the world, while the Cowgirls are the reigning WNIT Champions.
The prestigious WNIT is made up of teams who failed to receive a berth in the 65-team NCAA Tournament, the premier annual American Collegiate tournament.
New Adelaide Lightning recruit Renae Camino top scored for Australia with 13 points.
After a sluggish start, the Sapphires found themselves on par with the Cowgirls at the first quarter break, but put together a huge second quarter to outscore their opposition 24–12, with Cayla Francis scoring six straight points to close the half and secure Australia’s ead, 39-27.
The Sapphires continued on their merry way in the third quarter, increasing the defensive pressure to create a running game that saw them outscore Wyoming 19–9 in the period.
Sapphires Head Coach Gary Fox continued to receive good contributions from his bench players in the fourth quarter, with none better that Elyse Penaluna, who tallied 11 points and 10 rebounds in front of her home crowd.
Penaluna received good support from another bench player in Heather Oliver, who scored a valuable 8 points and applied great extended defence against ex-AIS graduate and Wyoming MVP Hanna Zavecz.
Kathleen Macleod’s 7 assists and Jenna O’Hea’s 8 rebounds and 5 assists rounded out the Sapphires’ solid performance.
The Sapphires depart Sydney on Friday bound for China, where they will continue to prepare for the 2007 U21 FIBA World Championship for Women, set to take place in Moscow, Russia from June 29 to July 8.