AUSTRALIA’S Opals survived a massive scare against a fast and firing Japan to win 92-86 in the match of the tournament so far at the Rio Olympics this morning.
A stunning fourth-quarter comeback led by twin towers Liz Cambage and Marianne Tolo saw Japan fall short of what was looking like a huge upset.
Japan’s smaller and more agile team caused plenty of headaches for Australian coach Brendan Joyce early, as their pick and roll game plan worked effectively in the first half.
Seattle Storm player and four-time Japan Basketball League MVP Ramu Tokashiki and captain Asami Yoshida scored heavily in the first quarter.
The teams went point for point but Australia’s defence broke down against Japan’s run and gun style of play to trail 24-23 at the end of the first quarter.
Australia managed to find a way to outscore Japan in the second quarter through swift passes to Cambage who stood close to the hoops.
Leilani Mitchell converted three-pointers when Australia desperately needed but it was not enough to give the Opals a big lead as Tokashiki kept her dominance.
The Opals tried to tighten their defence with Trigg resident Natalie Burton giving more attention to Tokashiki, but still trailed 50-48 at half time.
Cambage made an impact at both ends in the third until she was taken off and Australia barely scored after.
Japan smashed Australia on the scoreboard at the end of the third quarter to take a 71-59 lead thanks to blistering shots from marquee players Mika Kurihara and Tokashiki.
When the Opals looked down and out, a fired up Cambage turned on her A-game in the final quarter, swallowing up any scoring or blocking opportunity.
Coach Joyce made the call to put Tolo on court to form a formidable formation, which was too much for the tiring Japanese team, which saw Tokashiki miss a number of opportunities to seal the win.
The comeback was complete when Tolo drew a foul from Tokashiki in defence and converted her two free throws to give the Opals their fourth win in Group A.
Cambage was the Opals best again with another double-double (37 points and 10 rebounds) while point guard Mitchell (18 points) and Tolo (10 points) also starred.
Japan’s best were Tokashiki who scored 23 points, small forward Kurihara (20 points) and Yoshida (9 points and 11 assists).
Australia is set to advance to the knockout stages ahead of its final game against Belarus tomorrow.