England secured a wire-to-wire 78-51 victory against Mozambique to open their account at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Townsville.
Inspired by an Azania Stewart double-double, England led for all but three seconds of the contest as Georgia Jones found the Latvian-based centre with an exquisite pass to start the game.
Looking to control the paint, England jumped out to a 14-9 lead as Stewart, who would finish with a game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds, rattled off three quick baskets to force Mozambique into an early time-out. With England’s permitter players getting hot, they were able to open up a double-digit lead late in the first quarter.
“They’re a gritty team and we knew we just had to keep plugging away at it,” Stewart said. “We broke away with it in the fourth, but they were right there in it and kept making shots. We needed to bounce back after the Canada game, so I’m happy about it.”
With England seemingly in control, Mozambique responded either side of quarter-time as they went on a 7-0 run to slash the margin to a single bucket. Back within striking distance, Stefanie Collins (14 points, five rebounds and four assists) proved the sparkplug as she converted on a four-point play before following up moments later with another triple.
Leading 36-27 at the main change, England appeared destined to run away with the fixture in the second half but Mozambique would not be deterred. Battling hard on the offensive glass, the undersized Africans were able to play an unorthodox but effective style of play which saw them contain the margin to 11 going into the 4th quarter.
With the game up for grabs, Melita Emanuel-Carr was injected into the game and duly made a four-point play – the second of the contest – before stroking another from long-range.
“I don’t think the (end) result reflects what happened on the court,” coach Jose Buceta said. “I think the game was really close until the last minutes…but I think the Mozambique team did a good job. I’m happy with our performance.”
With the game in hand, England were able to close out the match full of running as they clinched a 27-point win.
Georgia Jones finished with nine points, five assists and three rebounds, while Rachael Vanderwal (eight points, four rebounds and four assists) and Chantelle Pressley (eight points and five rebounds) all played invaluable roles. Odelia Manfanela top-scored for Mozambique with 13 points and seven rebounds.
England will now face Australia in the final preliminary game tomorrow with a victory going a long way to ensuring them of a safe passage directly through to the semi-finals.