By Aljo Dolores
Australia def. Philippines 123-57
Cayla George (11 points, 14 rebounds)
One of the tallest players in Australia proved herself to be the biggest thorn for the Philippines. George only needed 16 minutes to stamp her class act with a double-double output. Her offense was so-so at best (40% FG). However, she more than made up for her lack of scoring with a royal performance on the boards. With Animam gone in the game, George feasted on the paint, as she led all players in both offensive and defensive rebounds.
Gemma Miranda (17 points, 4 rebounds)
Perhaps, the lone bright spot for Gilas in this game is Gemma Miranda’s brilliant offensive show in the first two quarters. The 5-foot-8 forward out of National University scored 15 of her 17 points in the first half, including two triples. However, she seemed to have emptied her clip too soon, missing both of her shot attempts in the second half. Still, her 18 efficiency rating made her the only Filipina to reach double digits in that statistic.
Leilani Mitchell (5 points, 3 rebounds, 9 assists)
In a team filled with six-footers, it’s quite a mystery how a 5-foot-5 guard managed to squeeze her tiny frame into Australia’s final lineup. Well, that was until she proved her worth in the opening game of the tournament. The 34-year-old pro baller was the floor general for the balanced Australian attack. She set her teammates up perfectly time and time again, which led to tons of great scoring opportunities for the Opals. If this were an assists contest, Mitchell would have narrowly lost to the entire Gilas squad that produced 11 dimes in the match.
- Basketball is still a tall person’s game, and it went on full display in this lopsided match. Ten Aussies were listed at least six feet in height as opposed to only three Pinays. Australia carried a huge size advantage, so they naturally elected to bully their way in the paint on both ends of the floor. With little vertical resistance, the Opals took most of their shots as close to the basket as possible, resulting in a 62.5% clip on the two-point area. They also grabbed rebounds like greedy adults playing pabitin in a field of seven-year-olds with 70 boards against only 19 for Gilas.
- Early foul trouble by Gilas bigs certainly hurt the Pinays’ already slim chance to protect the paint. It started when Jack Animam, who happens to be the tallest player on the game, was called for her third foul with 5:34 left in the first quarter, which caused her to sit down for the rest of the first half. Moreover, Kelli Hayes also got three fouls midway through the second quarter.
- The Opals’ gameplay wasn’t just hinged on the glaring height disparity; they moved the ball well throughout the game. Australia reached 123 points not by relying on one or two scorers, but by finding the open woman on the court through crisp passing. They amassed a total of 41 assists, giving them the best possible scoring opportunity no matter who was holding the ball. Every Aussie scored at least a field goal in the game, with eight players reaching double-digit points.
- Gilas had trouble getting anything going in the game largely due to the height disadvantage. It was quite noticeable how the Pinays can’t operate inside the paint, sometimes falling into offensive sets where no one is within ten feet from the basket. Out of the 61 attempts they took, 40 were taken away from the paint, including 26 shots from deep. That’s the price they paid, and will continue to pay for fielding in a team with a height average of 5-foot-7, the smallest in the tournament. They should learn to live with the handicap ASAP, since they were grouped together with the three tallest teams in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup.