PICTURE GALLERY TO COME.
THE Australian Opals got an Olympic-level ovation from supporters at the State Basketball Centre in Wantirna South last night and in return they gave an Olympic-style performance, thrashing world No.6 Brazil 102-58.
The Opals have set their sights on a gold medal at the London Olympics and in their demolition of a tired, injury-weakened Brazil, they showed why they are considered among the best teams in the world.
The win meant the Opals swept Brazil 3-0 in the Farewell Series.
Veteran superstar Lauren Jackson, who missed game one of the series and played limited minutes in game two, showed why she is still considered among the best in the world with 18 points and six rebounds in just 25 minutes.
She even returned to the court to rousing cheers in the final minutes, making a three-pointer as the Opals approached the 100 points for the game.
Rising star Liz Cambage showed just why she has been the face of the Opals leading into the Games, scoring 23 points in just 18 minutes while making all eight of her shots.
Opals and Dandenong Rangers star Jenna O’Hea was effective in all parts of the court with 16 points.
While those three led the scoring, all 12 of the Opals played minutes and offered something to the team, an output the Opals expect in every game come London.
Jackson said post game she was amazed by the level of support shown, not just at the new SBC but throughout the series which saw the Opals play in front of a crowd of more than 9000 at Hisense Arena and then a packed-house in Bendigo.
More than 2000 fans turned out last night with much of the crowd young female players, many of whom wore uniforms from neighbouring associations like Ringwood, Dandenong, Knox and even Warrandyte.
“This has been amazing,” Jackson said as supporters lined the stadium foyer for an Opals autograph session.
“Victoria has really shown us we have huge support for women’s basketball.
“It’s great that the girls get to see we have this much support going into London with people cheering like this for us.
“I’ve been wowed by it. I can’t believe it. I’m stoked.”
Opals coach Carrie Graf said the crowds in the series had given her players an “Olympic feel”, something which would prepare them well for the pressures they will face in London.
“That first game at Hisense Arena, it gave us an Olympic feel,” Graf said.
“From a performance prospective it was great practice to play in front of a big crowd; it was the first time for us to play as the Olympic team.”
Opals players and coaches will spend the next week on a break before resuming final preparations ahead of travelling to London.