China Women’s Basketball team reaches World Cup final

China Women's Basketball team reaches World Cup final

China defeat Australia to reach Women's Basketball World Cup final.

Sydney, The Gulf Observer: China defeated Australia 61-59 in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup semifinals in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, to reach the final of the tournament.

The result matched China’s best record at the World Cup (World Championship). The last time they did so was in 1994 in Australia as well.

This time, China will play against USA in the final on Saturday. The two teams played against each other during the group stage when USA won 77-63.

Han Xu was the best performing player of China on Friday night as she dropped a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds, including 13 points in the second quarter alone. She was also dominant on the defensive front by delivering five blocks.

China lacked their top scorer Li Meng as she has a fever. As a result, the team had to count more on the back-court pair of Yang Liwei and Wang Siyu to run offense. The two worked hard enough combined to get 32 points, but their performances were not very consistent. Meanwhile, China’s starting center Li Yueru was not in a good form, either on offense or defense.

As a result, China were attacking in bits and pieces in the first quarter while allowing too many offensive rebounds. Coach Zheng Wei replaced Li Yueru with Han after trailing 17-13 in this quarter.

Han’s arrival immediately turned the tide for China. She is taller, more agile and better at off-ball movement than Li Yueru. More important, Han can shoot to score in the middle range. China’s offense grew much smoother when Han was on the court. Defensively, she made better calls between switching defense and exploited her size well in protecting the paint. China gained the lead 36-30 after the first half of the game.

However, there were hidden dangers beneath China’s advantage. They were over-reliant on Han. Also, their guards were too careless with the ball, which turned the game too fast for center. Even though Han is quick than others in her size, she is a 2.08-meter-tall lady, not to mention she carried a heavy load on both ends of the game.

Australia’s response to Han’s offensive dominance came quickly too. There was always a defender trying to deny the ball guarding her. When Han received the ball around the paint, two or three Australian players would trap her almost immediately. Point by point, Australia were encroaching on China’s lead and turned the tide in the fourth quarter.

China made their adjustments as well. Instead of trying to pass to Han as the opponents’ expected, Yang and Wang began to charge Australia’s rim more aggressively than before. China were trailing 59-57 when there was less than one minute left. Wang stole the ball at the logo and drove all the way to Australia’s paint. But she was calm enough to pass it Yang who then assisted Huang Sijing for an open layup to tie the score.

In the following possession, China made Australia shoot an air ball and had 22.3 seconds to launch their final attack. Wang received the ball at the left wing and managed to draw a foul from her defender. She made both free throws for China to lead 61-59 while there were 3.4 seconds left.

As Ezi Magbegor missed her final attempt under the hoop, China secured the victory and the chance to challenge USA again in the final on Saturday.