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Opals take out first round clash

29 July 2012

After an emotional 48 hours that has seen Opals team captain Lauren Jackson lead the whole Australian Olympic Team into the start of the Games, the Opals have notched up a scrappy victory of hosts Great Britain.

Despite making their first ever Olympic appearance and not having the star-filled line-up of the Australian team, Great Britain made the Opals work for their 74-58 victory.

“I think Great Britain are going to cause a few upsets,” Jackson said after the match. “Defensively they are very polished and I think that rattled us a little in the second half.”

Arguably one of the world’s best basketball coaches, Australian Tom Maher has moulded a strong British team from a country that does not even boast a strong national league. With Maher having coached the majority of the Opals throughout their careers, having him on the bench was a clear advantage for the Brits, and it showed with Liz Cambage and Jenna O’Hea running into early foul trouble.

“He took her out of the game early,” Jackson said of Maher’s tactics to lessen the impact that the imposing six foot eight Cambage would have had on the game.

With head coach Carrie Graf removing Cambage from the game early to avoid further fouls, Jackson was forced to step up – and she relished the opportunity, ending the game as top point scorer on 18 points.

“Lizzy’s been a predominant scorer for us in the past few weeks,” Jackson said of her teammate’s dominant performance at recent internationals. “I feel like she has taken the load off me lately. Tonight I got back into my own game [as a scorer]. But we need her [Cambage] to get her points, get her shots up.”

It was no surprise that 20-year-old Cambage was targetted and it was very reminiscent of Sydney 2000 when then rising star Lauren Jackson was the opposition’s main aim. Cambage however was unfazed by her shaky start to Olympic competition and excited to move on to the next round matches.

“[It was a] bit of ants in the pants!,” Cambage said of her early fouls. “It was the ref’s first game and my first game and we are all getting to know each other,” she added with a light-hearted laugh.

Of the Opals uncharacteristic messy play, Cambage was optimistic that it was early Games jitters and nothing more, certainly nothing to worry about.

“I don’t think we were rusty I think it was more nerves. It would be impossible for us to be rusty we have been together for so long and played so many games.

“I know I had so many nerves, I thought I was going to throw up when the jump ball went up. I had butterflies like razorblades but it was amazing”

The Opals now have a day’s rest before facing France on Monday.

To read the quarter by quarter match report, click here>>>

Alice Wheeler

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