England remain full of confidence ahead of tomorrow’s quarter-final at the 2018 Commonwealth Games despite a final round loss to Australia in Pool A. With a must-win game against Jamaica on the horizon, the English camp brushed off tonight’s 55-118 loss in Townsville, instead preferring to focus on their up-coming opponent than dwell on the result with a semi-final berth on offer.
The tournament hosts looked every bit the gold medal favourite as they led from start to finish thanks to a dominant performance from Liz Cambage. The star centre, who captured worldwide headlines at the London Olympics when she became the first female player to slam dunk, finished with a game-high 30 points in just 17 minutes as Australia dominated the paint.
“They’re world class,” England centre Hannah Shaw said. “We tried to execute, we tried to make ourselves better because it is a long tournament. This isn’t the end of the tournament. We learn from today and stay positive moving forward. She (Cambage) is one of the best players in the world.”
With a starting line-up that contained four players with WNBA experience, Australia made a hot start before Eilidh Simpson opened the scoring with a three-point bomb. An and-one play from Azania Stewart moments later cut the deficit to 6-12, but that’s as close as England would get as Cambage finished the quarter with 11 points. Despite her interior presence, Shaw and Stewart battled gamely in the low post, working diligently on the defensive end.
“We’ll have a good practice tomorrow, we’ll keep controlling the things that we can control and we’ll stay together,” Shaw said. “We’re a great group and I’m proud of how we battled today.”
With Australia leading 31-15 at quarter-time, Shaw (nine points) was able to connect from the three-point line and Melita Emanuel-Carr followed suit shortly after. The hosts were relentless on the glass, however, as they held a 27-11 advantage at half-time which blew out to 54-18 at the final buzzer.
“(Rebounding) was the focus going in,” Australian coach Sandy Brondello said. “I thought we had really good focus, really good intensity there, good contributions from everyone. We stayed consistent for four quarters and that's what you have to do if you want to be the best you can be."
Trailing 24-61 at the main change, the second half did not get any easier as Australia shot at an outrageous 58% from the field. England’s Nikki Fong Lyew Quee (nine points and four assists) provided a spark on the offensive end as she was able to slash her way to the basket.
The Durham Palatinates guard continued that form in the final term as she went 4/7 from the field during her most impressive minutes of the tournament, while Siobhan Prior was also able to get hot late in the game. Prior’s eight points all came in the final quarter as she lit up from the perimeter, finally shrugging off some of the dogged Australian defence.
“We expected this game to be difficult, but we need to understand the bigger picture to this competition,” England coach Jose Buceta said. “Tomorrow we play a quarter-final and we will be ready for that.”
England face Jamaica in a cut-throat quarter-final at midday UK time tomorrow with the winner advancing to the final four.