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Olympic dream a step closer for Lauren Jackson, as Australian Opals hang tough against Brazil

Room to improve

While the Opals enjoyed a 42-35 rebounding advantage, Brondello was disappointed with her team’s “silly turnovers” – the Opals had 16 – negating their good work at the other end of the floor. However, she praised her team’s grit.

Impact: Lauren Jackson was used off the bench in the Opals’ win on Friday.Credit: AP

“I was proud of the girls to just buckle down in that fourth quarter. It wasn’t pretty but we found a way. We got stops. Cayla George made a big three at the end,” Brondello said.

“We are lucky to get away. We are happy that we won. But we need to be better to beat the next team. We are resilient, but I already knew that. We just had to get a stop and score. I did go with an experienced group at the end, a team that had played together a bit more.”

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What’s next for the Opals

It was the first of three games in four days for the Opals, who need to finish in the top three of their pool to punch their ticket to Paris. One win is likely to be enough to secure a top-three berth.

Behind Allen’s eight first-quarter points, including a pair of threes, and Magbegor’s 12 points on 5/5 shooting from the floor and two free throws, the visitors enjoyed a 14-point lead, shaved to a 33-23 advantage at half-time. Brazil often fed the ball to post player Kamilla Soares, but it was Damiris Dantas who injected life with 11 points, including two three pointers, to the main break.

The two nations exchanged three pointers early in the third, but it was Brazilians who gained momentum. The Opals were sloppy with the ball, and had a 46-38 lead eroded to 49-47 by the final break, the Opals’ only score in the final three minutes coming from a Tess Madgen corner three.

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Scores were tied in the opening seconds of the final quarter, but both nations could not score for more than three minutes until Brazil’s Vitoria Marcelino buried three free-throws after a Sami Whitcomb foul. This gave the hosts their first lead of the night.

George responded by dragging the Opals from the freezer with a mid-range jumper, and when Allen buried a three from the wing, the Opals again silenced the crowd.

Magbegor came up with a huge rejection to retain the Opals’ lead, this advantage only two points with two minutes remaining.

Brazil knotted scores when Soares got by George with a lay-in, but Sydney Flames star and WNBA champion George responded two possessions later with a monster three from the wing. A timeout ensued, but Magbegor ensured victory with two more blocks, the second leading to a breakaway Madgen lay-up which iced the result.

While Jackson did not have a major impact, the presence of the former WNBA MVP ensured the floor was spread for her fellow shooters. Now in better shape now than what she was at the 2022 World Cup when the Opals claimed bronze, Jackson will have an important role to play when the Opals face Germany and Serbia on Sunday and Monday. Germany edged Serbia 73-66 on Friday.

Opals 60 (Magbegor 18, Allen 14, George 7) defeated Brazil 55 ( Dantes 11, Soares 11, Zabani 10)

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