Mijovic rises above the din
Mark down Carley Mijovic as next in the line of great Aussie centres, as she inspired her Gems to an 83-54 win over the Junior Tall Ferns and a sweep of their three-game FIBA Oceania U19 series at Porirua today.
With the Opals already well served by giants like Lauren Jackson, Suzy Batkovic and Liz Cambage in recent years, Mijovic (1.96m) showed a range of skills that stamps her as a future force in the middle, leading all scorers in Game Three with 19 points and hauling in 13 rebounds along the way.
Casey Samuels had a pair of three-pointers in her 16 points, while Alex Wilson netted 12.
For New Zealand, Penina Davidson was the only player in double figures with 11 points, along with seven rebounds and five steals.
You never really know what teams will bring to a game that means nothing. With the Gems already qualified for next year’s world championships in Lithuania, perhaps everyone will relax and play with more freedom – or lose their structure and be punished for it.
Maybe coaches will run their subs to reward little-used players for their loyalty.
Certainly, there didn’t seem to be any let-up from either the JTFs or Gems. Perhaps the Aussies were still smarting from their Game One escape and determined not to let their proud record at this level slip.
They stole initiative late in the opening quarter with a 9-2 run and became a double-figure lead early in the second period.
Mijovic once again had the Kiwis in fits trying to match up with her height, but she was also showing nice range on her jump shot, connecting from all around the keyhole. When she struck from the arc, the Gems had put on 13 straight points and pushed their advantage to 20.
They just seemed like a team that had found their groove and the Junior Tall Ferns looked to have run out of gas.
A flurry of three-pointers from Morgan Hunter stemmed the bleeding a little for New Zealand, but turnovers were killing any momentum they might have built. By halftime, Australia led 46-25, forcing 10 turnovers, grabbing 10 offensive rebounds, dishing 11 assists and connecting on 49% from the field.
But on the resumption, the Kiwis kept their rivals scoreless for three-and-a-half minutes. They weren’t able to take full advantage of that achievement – they only scored three themselves during that time – but it was a small victory that forced Gems coach Cheryl Chambers into a timeout.
They came out of that stoppage to a three-point play and a pair of treys from Casey Samuels and Alex Wilson as the difference threatened to top 30. Guard Brooke Blair found her stroke for a couple of long-distance strikes and the gap was still manageable (66-41) with a quarter left.
When Wilson produced a three-point play early in the fourth, that margin finally reached the big three-O, but to their credit, the JTFs hung tough and scrapped down the stretch to keep it at that.
Australia had dominated possession, again out-rebounding their rivals under their defensive boards (24 OR), forcing 24 turnovers, dishing 21 assists and creating 28 more opportunities from the field.
Junior Tall Ferns 54 (Penina Davidson 11, Morgan Hunter 9, Rhaiah Spooner-Knight 9) Australian Gems 83 FT
HT 25-46 (14-27)
Q3 41-66 (16-20)
FT 54-83 (13-17)