Opals cash-in on most bankable Games gold despite ejection
AUSTRALIA overcame the shock second quarter ejection of Opals star Liz Cambage to cash-in the most bankable gold medal of the Commonwealth Games with a 99-55 victory in the women's basketball final last night.
Cambage had a running battle with the whistle-happy referees through the first two quarters when she struck foul trouble, lost her cool, allegedly swore at a referee and was thrown out of the game.
The standout player of the tournament was at the free throw line about to shoot midway through the second quarter when she got engaged in a verbal exchange with the officials who issued her with a technical foul.
Cambage was forced to leave the court with Australia leading 30-17 and the Gold Coast Convention Centre voiced their disapproval with the referees who were also frustratingly inconsistent with their interpretation of what constituted contact.
But the Opals had the depth and talent to still stick it to England.
Cayla George was outstanding with 16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks, Kelsey Griffin had 16 points and eight rebounds, young gun Ezi Magbegor added 11 points while captain Belinda Snell - in her last game for Australia - chimed in with nine points.
Australian team bosses could have - and should have - locked-in this gold medal years ago when basketball was first announced as a sport for the Gold Coast given the gap between the Opals and their Commonwealth rivals is as wide as the Grand Canyon.
With a roster stacked with players with WNBA and Olympic experience, the Opals were the Gold Coast's version of the "Dream Team” and were never seriously challenged throughout their campaign even with Cambage watching most of the final from the dressing room.
They beat Mozambique by 60 points, Canada by 39 points and England by 63 points in the pool matches before smashing New Zealand by 59 points in the semi-finals.
And the gold medal game against England followed a similar path.
Australia led 26-10 at quarter-time with Cambage adding 10 points in the first term.
After the loss of their most influential player, Australia was briefly flustered until Snell hit back-to-back three pointers to help the Opals to a 49-31 advantage at halftime.
Australia kicked into overdrive after halftime and powered to a 78-47 lead at the last change to have one hand on the gold medal.
The Opals added a second Commonwealth Games gold medal to the one they collected in similar style in Melbourne in 2006.
In the bronze medal match New Zealand beat Canada 74-58.