Opals win an Olympics qualifying boost

Murray Wenzel

A sharper Australia have relieved some pressure on their Olympics basketball qualifying campaign, dominating Puerto Rico to all but guarantee their Tokyo berth.

The Opals lost to hosts France on Friday morning at the final qualifying tournament for the 2020 Games but bounced back with a 100-74 defeat of Puerto Ricans on Sunday morning.

The top three sides will progress to Tokyo, meaning only a shock, heavy loss to 15th-ranked Brazil - upset by world the No.23 Puerto Rican in the tournament opener - on Sunday night could keep the Opals at home later this year.

A clunky Australia struggled to score against the French but had ample contributors in Bourges to assist star centre Elizabeth Cambage (31 points, six rebounds).

"Defence (needed to improve) first, but our offence had to get better and we had a way better spread tonight," Brondello said.

"It shows we get a little bit more chemistry the more time we play together.

"There's still areas to improve on, but we're happy with the win and one more to go."

The Opals created an early 13-2 lead and were never threatened, making nine-of-19 three-pointers and shooting an impressive 54 per cent from the field.

Better contributions from forwards Cayla George (11 points, eight rebounds, four assists), Marianna Tolo (nine points, four rebounds) and point guard Leilani Mitchell (nine points, seven assists) would have pleased coach Sandy Brondello, who admitted their lack of chemistry and composure had hurt them against France.

The Opals managed 29 assists on 39 field goals against Puerto Rico in perhaps the most heartwarming statistic as the side attempts to get their groove back for a medal tilt in Japan.

Used sparingly against the French, skilful forward Ezi Magbegor showed she had a part to play in Tokyo with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists.

Former Canberra Capitals import Jazmon Gwathmey scored 30 points in a lone hand for the undersized Puerto Ricans, who are still likely to feature in a maiden Olympic campaign after their win over Brazil.

France locked up their spot at the Olympics by defeating Brazil 89-72 with Australia to face the South Americans at midnight on Sunday (AEDT), before the Australia-based players return home to resume WNBL duties.