The Rio Olympic basketball tournament is now in straight knockout mode beginning with four intriguing women’s encounters as the race for medals is getting warmer. Will the USA romp to a sixth straight premier podium? Or can someone cause perhaps the biggest upset in Olympic basketball history and knock them off the top?
SERBIA STUN OPALS, ADVANCE TO SEMIS
After starting the Rio Olympics 0-3, Serbia, appearing in their first ever Olympic Games looked to be heading home having gained valuable experience at the highest level.
A week on, and Serbia are now contending for a medal after stunning the world number two side Australia 73-71 to eliminate the Opals from medal discussion.
Ana Dabovic scored and on the next possession, went 1/2 from the foul line for a 73-71 with 10.2 seconds remaining and Australia were unable to get a clean shot on the last possession, causing scenes of jubilation amongst the Serbian camp.
Australia, who went into the game a perfect 5-0 were paced by Liz Cambage’s game-high 29 points but for the first time since the Atlanta Games in 1996, the Opals will not be in the last four. Dabovic led the victorious Serbs with 24 points as they reach the last four at the first attempt, a fantastic achievement.
ANNA CRUZ AT THE BUZZER FOR SPAIN
Spain needed clutch heroics from Anna Cruz as they beat Turkey in an enthralling quarter-final 74-72 to face Serbia in the semi-finals.
With the game knotted at 62-62 after Turkey’s Lara Sanders tied the score at 62 with 4.3 seconds left to play, Cruz ran up the court and hit a tough shot off of one foot from just inside the three-point arc for the win.
Cruz paced Spain with 14 points as she guides her side to a first ever semi-final place. Sanders led all scorers in vain for the Turks with 22 points.
USA GET THE BETTER OF FATIGUED JAPANESE
Japan gave the USA a game for the first two quarters by doing what they do best: run. Getting out in transition at every available opportunity. There unfortunately was one hitch.
The Asian nation eventually got tired, allowing the patient Americans to take full advantage and win 110-64.
Despite leading by double-digits at the half, USA were still not clear of Japan, who were shooting the lights out and scoring a lot of quick buckets, but the second half told a different story as the U.S., led by 19 points from Diana Taurasi, held Japan to just 18 points in the final two periods to advance to the last four.
But – as they head home – Japan will know that they have done themselves proud as they prepare to host the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
FRANCE OUT-DUEL CANADA TO SET UP LONDON 2012 REMATCH
France did this for Celine Dumerc, their fallen leader who got injured less than 36 hours before the Olympics began. And now, a date with the USA awaits.
The French came from behind to beat Canada 68-63 in the final last eight encounter as Sandrine Gruda was outstanding with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, controlling both ends of the floor.
After scoring 25 points in the first quarter and leading by 13 at one point, Canada only had 38 the rest of the way and were outscored 16-12, 18-13 and 18-13 in the last three quarters. Kia Nurse, who had been starring for Canada up to this point, shot just 3/16, and when her nation needed her most, she failed to deliver.