Rio Dream Extinguished for Opals as Medal Sequence Ends

Basketball | Published: Wed 17 August 2016

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 finals.


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 ever.