Basketball: Australia v Serbia
Athlete: Natalie Burton
Venue: Carioca Arena 1
The Australian women’s basketball team has been bundled out
of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, after suffering a 71-73 defeat against Serbia in
their quarter final.
The Opals had medalled at every Olympics stretching back to
Atlanta 1996, and after topping their group stage undefeated, were expected to
be too strong for the Europeans.
They quickly found however, that they were in a scrap, with
the Serbian outfit regularly employing a full-court press and denying Liz
Cambage space in the paint.
Led by Ana Dabovic with 24 points, the Serbians pressured
Australia into regular turnovers with clear scoring opportunities at a premium.
Despite the close attention, Cambage kept Australia in it,
with a match high total of 29 points for the Opals, but the usually clinical
Penny Taylor – playing in her last campaign for Australia – unfortunately had a
match to send her into retirement that was undeserving of her legacy.
She managed just two points across the quarter final and
spent time on the pine in the opening stages after picking up early fouls.
After a slow spell, Australia did manage to get moving and
reached the first break with scores level at 20 apiece.
The Opals looked to be making their move in the second term
as Serbia’s shooting percentage dropped and Australia edged towards a 10 point
margin, but they left the door open and their opponent capitalised to close the
gap to two points at half time (37-35).
Sensing an upset, Serbia stepped up their intensity in
defence in the third quarter, despite failing to convert their increasing
dominance into scoreboard pressure. Cambage was getting more and more agitated
with a lack of calls in her favour from the referees, but did keep the tally
ticking over for Australia as the third quarter break saw Australia leading by
just a solitary point.
Taylor’s form had deserted her, with the champion failing to
convert a field goal from seven attempts across the four quarters, whilst
Jelena Milovanovic (17 points) was finding plenty of the ball for Serbia, in
conjunction with Dabovic.
Australia slipped behind but did manage to rally to stay
within striking distance at the death. With Dabovic missing her first
free-throw of the night with less than 30 seconds remaining, Australia was left
chasing three points for the win or two to force extra-time.
Under frenetic Serbian pressure, Australia couldn’t find an
outlet, and with a shot come pass from Tessa Lavey failing to find the mark,
Serbia were left to celebrate a famous win and progression to the Olympic semi
For Australia, it’s an end of a sequence of five Olympic
medals and with Taylor joining Opals great Lauren Jackson in retirement, it’s back
to the drawing board, as that elusive gold medal stands further adrift than