OPALS CAN’T DULL ENGLAND’S SILVER LINING

Australia, as expected, thrashed England 99-55 to take women’s basketball gold at the Commonwealth Games.

Despite the contraversial ejection of Opals star centre Liz Cambage in the second quarter, the hosts – perennial Olympic medallists – over-powered Chema Buceta’s side from the off, cruising into a 49-31 half-time lead at the Gold Coast Exhibition Centre.

Cambage, dominant with ten points on 5/5 shooting – waved to the capacity crowd as she exited the arena. They responded with noise, boos for the guests, loud cheers for their favourites and it was truly overwhelming for the English.

“We came out fighting,” said Rachael Vanderwal. “We came out with everything we could.”

Just not enough to make an indent.

Up 49-31 at half-time, the hammer blow came with a 20-4 run over a six-minute spell in the third and it became a processional stroll to victory.

Shooting 26% from the field, and comprehensively out-rebounded, England could find little offensive momentum beyond a team-high 13 points from Azania Stewart, and their defence was conspicuously picked apart with a 17-4 burst at the start of the fourth adding only lustre.

“We lost to a class team,” said Stewart. “They played great. It was beautiful. I clapped for them when they made some beautiful plays.”

No disgrace losing amid this company, the run to the final adding another layer of pressure in British basketball’s funding campaign.

Stewart, likely to call time on an illustrious career at the season’s end, relished the shiny silver souvenir.

“This is the pinnacle, even with the Olympics and everything,” she said. “For me, I’m getting ready to retire and to have a silver medal in my trophy cabinet with these girls is great.”

Australia were paced by 16 apiece from Kelsey Griffin and Cayla George. The party, long before the end on Saturday night in Queensland, had begun.

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Earlier, New Zealand beat Canada 74-58 to take bronze.

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