Hurst a star in big Opals win

The Australian Opals have crushed the Czech Republic 89-51 in Pilsen, to start their European tour with a bang.

Canberra Capitals star – and Sports Wizard® basketball ambassador – Nat Hurst was outstanding for Australia, scoring 15 points in a stunning cameo of just 15-minutes of court time.

The team was preparing for its two-match series against Belarus on 19 and 20 August before the TBF Victory Cup where they’ll face Canada, Brazil and Turkey.

See the full match report below.

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The Jayco Australian Opals have begun their six-game tour of Europe with a convincing 89-51 victory over the Czech Republic in Pilsen overnight.

It was a dominant second half performance from the Jayco Opals, outscoring the hosts 49-14 after the main break in a two-way effort that ensured a comfortable 38-point victory.

In a tight opening two quarters, the Australians held a narrow 40-37 advantage when the two teams went to the change rooms for half time, returning to put on one of their most dominant displays under the leadership of Head Coach Brendan Joyce.

After a standout tour of Japan, Liz Cambage was again influential, posting a game-high 18 points to go with 10 rebounds, while point guard Natalie Hurst had 15 points in just 15 minutes court time.

The hero of the opening game win over Japan last month, Leilani Mitchell opened her European tour with 10 points and 6 rebounds, while Rebecca Allen (10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists) and Laura Hodges (10 points) also impacted the scoreboard.

Jayco Opals Head Coach Brendan Joyce heaped praise on his team for their outstanding defensive performance, particularly in the second half.

“You talk about putting the screws on a team, we put the screws on unbelievably in the third quarter defensively and in the final quarter,” Joyce said.

“To keep a team of the quality of the Czech Republic to 14 points in the second half speaks volumes of the discipline of the team on the defensive end and their ability to stick to the task, which is so pleasing from a coaching perspective.

“Coming into the Czech Republic, playing them at home – I couldn’t have asked for a better performance from the players and it’s sets a great tone for the next leg of the tour in Belarus.”

It was a arm-wrestle to start the opening game of the European tour for the Jayco Opals, as the Czech Republic team went toe-to-toe with their highly-ranked opposition, trailing by just two points at the end of the first quarter.

The intensity did not wane from the hosts, with the Jayco Opals lead growing by just one point in the following 10 minutes, ensuring the Czech team would remain in the contest heading into the second half.

This was the last time the hosts would be in the contest as Cambage, Hurst, Mitchell and Allen inspired a 22-6 third quarter built on an elite defensive performance from the team. This was carried into the final quarter, ensuring the Czechs would be restricted to just 14 second-half points.

Next up for the Jayco Opals is a two-game tour of Belarus before heading to Turkey for the TBF Cup tournament.

Jayco Australian Opals 89-51 Czech Republic

Cambage 18; Hurst 15; Mitchell, Allen, Hodges 10; Snell 9; Burton, Tolo, Lavey 5; Jarry 2

Jayco Australian Opals Team – Tour of Europe

Rebecca Allen – Melbourne Boomers

Natalie Burton – Melbourne Boomers

Elizabeth Cambage – Dandenong Rangers

Laura Hodges – Adelaide Lightning

Natalie Hurst – Canberra Capitals/Canik BLD (Turkey)

Rachel Jarry – Melbourne Boomers

Tessa Lavey – Bendigo Spirit

Tess Madgen – Melbourne Boomers

Leilani Mitchell – Sydney Uni Flames

Gabrielle Richards – Bendigo Spirit

Belinda Snell – Bendigo Spirit

Marianna Tolo – Bourges (France)

This story appeared on the Basketball Australia website titled ‘Jaycol Opals crush Czech Rep in Euro tour opener‘, on 16 August, 2014.