By Mark Angelo Mañez, Chief Correspondent – Explained PH Sports Desk

The United States annexed another crown jewel in their ever-growing collection as they plastered Asian powerhouse China, 83-61 in an epic final showdown at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup inside the Sydney SuperDome, Saturday.

Photo Courtesy of FIBA Basketball

With the victory already secured, and in front of a mammoth crowd of 15,985, the Americans captured their fourth straight world title since 2010 and 11th overall while setting numerous records during its flawless run. 

This included their 145-69 bamboozling of South Korea in the preliminaries.
Tournament MVP A’Ja Wilson provided the blaze that would set off Coach Cheryl Reeve’s squad with its full arsenal as she nailed 19 points, on top of her 5 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. Kelsey Plum led the support crew with 17 markers with Jewell Loyd and Chelsea Gray pitching up 11 and 10, respectively.

“According to my TISSOT watch, we’re gold medalists. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks but I am blessed to be in this situation. I came here with a goal and that was to get gold,” Wilson said during the post-game conference after the final.

Also named in the All-Tournament first squad include teammate Breanna Stewart, China’s Han Xu, Stephanie Talbot of host nation Australia, and Canada’s Bridget Carleton.

Best Defensive Player Alyssa Thomas, in connection to FIBA’s announcement immediately after the final, led the tournament’s second squad. She was joined by Li Yueru, Puerto Rico’s Arella Guirantes, France’s Gabby Williams and Serbia’s Yvonne Anderson.

Jackson calls it career for Opals

Meanwhile, hosts Australia did not disappoint its appreciative sold-out crowd after booting out Canada, 95-65, in their own battle for bronze prior to the blockbuster finale.

Lauren Jackson dropped 30 points in her curtain call as her team bounced back big time after their morale-deflating setback against China the night prior. 

Steph Talbot backed her in the scoring chores, picking up 16 markers while conniving with Jackson for combined 15 rebounds, 12 assists, 4 steals, and a block. 

Kia Nurse, meanwhile, carried Victor Lapena’s Canada squad with her own 19 markers with Nirra Fields and Natalie Achonwa adding 12 and 10, respectively.

"They're the best group of the girls, I've had the best time, and it's the best journey I've had in the sport." said Jackson.

It was touch-and-go for the most part, until a deflating 17-1 run sunk Canada all but gone. All game, the Opals knocked down 61% of their field goals inside rainbow range while forcing Canada to 12 errors throughout.

'A very good basketball team'

Both teams went toe-to-toe in the early minutes of the gold medal game, but took a turn for the blowout on both ends as the Americans, led by Gray, sparked a huge blitz and held a 43-33 halftime break.

Li Yueru, meanwhile, stood tall for Coach Zheng Wei’s Chinese team registering 19 points and 12 rebounds to give her nation its second silver medal in nearly three decades. Wu Tongtong and Wang Siyu backstopped her with a combined effort of 24 markers and 6 dime.

Li Meng, one of the stars in the squad, meanwhile was sidelined after an illness struck the influential guard which caused a huge gap prior to the final.

“China is a very good basketball team and I feel bad for them that Li Meng was not able to play. I have watched them grow up and I am happy they got the silver. We were really determined and defensively today we had 40 deflections. We had some great moments in the game and obviously A’Ja Wilson was spectacular,” American tactician Cheryl Reeve added after the postgame.

All game long, the Americans showed superiority and leading in all statistical categories as evident in limiting them to only 8 points off turnovers and fast breaks against their 37 combined in the said categories.