FIBA Women’s World Cup 2022: Cayla George shines as Opals edge Belgium in quarter-finals
The Opals train continued to roll, as they secured a comfortable 17-point victory in their quarter-final clash with Belgium.
Belgium entered the game handicapped, without their star player Emma Meesseman due to a calf injury, and the Opals were able to capitalize on this lack of size throughout the game, seemingly scoring at will for most of the game. competition.
Lauren Jackson scored her first two-pointer of the tournament. Then she did her second. Then third and fourth, finishing with 12 points.
But it was Cayla George who was the star of the show, mixing inside and outside points to finish with a game-high 19 points, which she paired with nine rebounds, two assists, a steal. and one against.
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George seemed to be omnipresent for Australia, getting them out of more than a few tight spots while continuing to be one of the emotional cores of the team, much to the delight of his teammates, including Ezi Magbegor.
“I think it started with Sarah [Blicavs] right in the first quarter she came in and just set the tone for us, Cayla coming off the bench, she was unconscious in that game,” Magbegor told reporters after the game.
“We knew she was playing well and she had the ball in her hands and I think it’s just an honor for the team, we know we’re at 12, anyone can step in, anyone what a night and it was Cayla tonight.”
George seemed to agree with this summons and was quick to credit the Opals team for their performance.
“My teammates instilled a whole lot of confidence in me and when I was hot, I was hot, I guess,” George said after the game.
“Team Opals is really hard to do and then team Opals for a big event is even harder to do so we have a lot of depth and we’re really proud of that and supporting each other.”
To exemplify that depth, Sara Blicavs had her best game of the tournament, repaying coach Sandy Brondello’s decision to pitch her with 12 points and nine rebounds, while Marianna Tolo continued her consistent game down low, finishing with 13 points. .
It seemed like everywhere you looked there was an opal playing its part; Steph Talbot and Sami Whitcomb had nine and seven assists respectively, Ezi Magbegor continued to provide stellar defense and Kirsty Wallace brought energy from the bench.
Bec Allen also attempted a comeback after missing the previous two games with injury, but was out after two and a half minutes for good.
MORE: A tale of two halves as USA book semi-final berth
There were some positives for Belgium – Julie Allemand had 15 points and seven assists, while young star Kyara Linskens gave Belgian fans something to excite, but the lack of Meseeman was felt strongly, and the Cats couldn’t keep with the Opals.
But going forward, the height game will total 180, with the Opals set to face China in the semi-finals, a team sporting two of the tournament’s tallest players in Xu Han and Yueru Li, who are both tall more than 200 centimeters high.
Once again, Cayla George thanked her entire squad for earning that semi-final berth and acknowledged that it’s a long wait for an Opals squad that has been plagued with uncertainty for the past few years.
“It’s a pretty amazing feeling, the process to get here hasn’t been easy, a lot of hard work involved physically and mentally and we’ve stuck together, we’ve stayed in our Opals bubble, because in these events you get out of obligated,” George said.
“There’s a lot going on, a lot of outside noise, but we’ve stayed true to our Opals bubble and supported each other, which is basically what you need to do to get through this is far away and we’re not. not quite finished yet, but tomorrow will be a really physical battle.
“I don’t think they’ve won a medal since 1994 which I saw on TV today, so you know they’re going to be very hungry too.
“They have a lot of fans here, the stadium in their game was really loud so I think the top will have to be open, it’s going to be full tomorrow, it’s going to be really rowdy.
“We just expect a great performance from China and they’re going to be really tough, really physical, but I think tomorrow it’s going to be who blames the most.”
After what could be seen as a horror start for the Opals, losing to France in the opening match, they have apparently gone from strength to strength and are reaching their peak at the right time.
Only time will tell if their momentum can carry them past China and into the gold medal game, but regardless, they have truly proven they deserve their place in the echelon. superior of international basketball.