Australia has its third gold medal of the 2019 Napoli Summer Universiade after the Emerging Opals defeated the USA in the women’s basketball gold medal match 80-72 to become back-to-back champions at the event.
The highly anticipated final featured the two remaining undefeated teams in the competition, with the USA looking to avenge their quarter final loss at the hands of the Australians in 2017.
The game was evenly poised at half-time after the UniRoos jumped out to an early eight-point lead only for the USA to draw it back to a 1-point deficit at halftime. But with three minutes remaining in the third quarter Abigail Wehrung (University of Canberra) provided a spark with 8 straight points as the UniRoos went on a 15-2 run to close out the quarter with an 18-point lead.
The game was put beyond doubt early in the final quarter with Keely Froling (University of Canberra) and Lauren Scherf (Victoria University) combining for the opening 8 points of the quarter. Jasmine Simmons (Oregon State University) entered the game with 1:42 remaining to ensure every Emerging Opal received game time in the win.
Coach Shannon Seebohm, who took over the head role of the UniRoos for the first time in 2019 couldn’t have been prouder of his teams’ efforts.
“Tonight, we were fantastic. We couldn’t have executed our game plan any better,” said Seebohm.
“I think throughout the tournament we showed glimpses and it was just something we kept trying to build on.”
“Thankfully for us, our last game was our best one”.
In a highly competitive game, tempers flared with neither team willing to take a backwards step with the gold medal up for grabs. Australia had gone into the match expecting this style of play from the Americans and prepared accordingly.
Emerging Opals star Abi Wehrung, who along with Scherf, Froling and Alexandra Sharp was part of the 2017 win, said the team expected the USA to play hard.
“I think we were all just really fired up,” said Wehrung immediately following the encounter.
“We knew that they were going to be super tough, but we were super determined from the get-go and to come out and play our best game for the tournament really showed our determination.”
As has been the case throughout the tournament, it was a team performance that got the Emerging Opals over the line. Wehrung led the way with 18 points and 11 assists, while Scherf was dominant in the paint scoring 16 points. Froling again added a spark off the bench to score 12 points.
The UniRoos 2019 triumph is the third time that Australia has claimed the gold medal in the women’s basketball at the Summer Universiade following successful campaigns in 2007 and 2 years ago in Taipei. It’s also the seventh time Australia has medalled in the event, having made the podium in seven of the past eight Universiades.
The gold medal is Australia's eighth medal overall at Napoli 2019, and third gold.