RIO 2016: Opals narrowly vanquish Japan, head for finals
THE Australian Opals have shown their class to surge back from a 17 point final quarter deficit to narrowly defeat a plucky Japan in their Olympic pool game at Rio's Youth Arena.
Japan got back to 88-86 with just seconds left on the game clock before game MVP Liz Cambage made a three point play for a 92-86 great escape.
Australia's final match will be against Belarus on Monday.
It took a blistering 32-15 final quarter for the Opals to wear down a spirited Japan who couldn't handle Cambage who with 37 points and 10 rebounds.
But the smaller Asian champions threaten to shock the basketball world with three outstanding quarters before Australia applied the blow torch in the final quarter.
Cambage had a field day inside the paint.
But Japan's quickness, crisp passing, slick ball movement and ability to drive the lanes caught Australia by surprise.
Things looked bad for the Opals when Japan extended its 12 point lead into the last quarter to 17 through it's sole WNBA star Ranu Tokashiki (23 points) and 11 assists to guard Asami Yoshida.
But when Opals captain Penny Taylor drilled a huge three point bomb to edge the Opals out 88-83 inside the final minute, the great escape became reality.
Asian champions Japan is pushing Australia's unbeaten Opals using their speed and discipline to advantage in their Olympic pool game at the Youth Arena in Rio.
Australia had a real fight on their hands against a gritty Japan who went into the half time break leading 50-48.
After taking an up-tempo first quarter 24-23 Japan continued to play a running game taking Australia out of its comfort zone with some quick transition basketball and some excellent ball movement.
They took the lead out to seven points (38-31) before Opals guard Leilani Mitchell dropped in a big three-point shot to stem the points flow.
Point guard Asami Yoshida was a defensive handful for the Opals with seven assists by quarter time while team-mate Ramu Tokashiki, the only Japanese player competing in the WNBL with the Seattle Storm,, made some good baskets early to her side rolling.
Liz Cambage had 15 points up at the break matching Tokashiki's first half haul.