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Basketball - 21. August 2008.

AUS/CHN – No Penny, no problem as Opals beat China to reach gold medal game

BEIJING (Olympics) – Australia didn’t have injured superstar Penny Taylor for their semi-final against China but they blew out the Olympic hosts anyway 90-56.


Taylor sprained her ankle in Australia’s quarter-final demolition of the Czech Republic two days ago but should take the court in the gold medal game against the United States.

Without her, Australia still overwhelmed the Chinese with a suffocating defense and great work on the boards.

"It was a pleasing result for us to beat the host nation,” Australia coach Jan Stirling said.

“China have played well in the tournament with the exception of their defeat to Team USA. We knew we had a challenge. We cranked up the defense."

Australia had 10 steals and forced China into committing 20 turnovers.

After leading 13-11 at the end of the first quarter, the world champions outscored the Chinese 21-7 to take a 34-18 advantage to half-time before pulling away for a convincing win.

Australia out-rebounded the Chinese 56-34 and also got a balanced scoring attack that was led by Belinda Snell’s 16.

Suzy Batkovic had 13 rebounds to go with her 10 points.

Australia’s bundle of energy at point guard, Kristi Harrower, had 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists while Lauren Jackson poured in 11 and grabbed 10 boards.

Jackson is not playing at 100% because of an ankle injury, and Stirling revealed in the press conference that she will have arthroscopic surgery next week and will be out of action for four to six weeks.

Jackson is hoping to rejoin her WNBA team the Seattle Storm if they reach the WNBA Finals.

"Lauren Jackson had an injection before this game,” Stirling said.

“She will be going home after that to have surgery.

As for taking on the USA, Stirling said: "Penny will be there (for the final) but whether she will be fully fit remains to be seen.

“The injury is one where she would be out for three weeks but she has stayed up the whole night putting ice every two hours. She is doing everything she can.

"For anyone to beat Team USA with the depth they have, we are going to have to produce our ‘A’ game of the tournament without question.

“We have to make things happen for us and hopefully that will happen in 48 hours time."

The USA beat the Australians in the final at the last two Olympics.

"For us it's a third time round the track,” Stirling said.

“We are desperate. We have to take care of business on the court. We have to have a lot of passion but we cannot be emotional about it."

China, who are coached by former Australia boss Tom Maher, will take on Russia in the bronze medal game.

"The Australians are a much better team than us,” Maher said.

“I was disappointed in how easily distracted we became because of this superiority.

“We weren't able to execute our game plan. One thing is getting beaten, another thing getting whipped.

“Their possession game was wonderful, ours was pretty ordinary. There was no comparison between the two teams."

Bian Lan had a game-high 20 points in defeat for China.



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