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Sapphires gleam among the medals

AUSTRALIA’s Sapphires today captured Bronze at the FIBA World Under-17 championship in Minsk, Belarus, with exciting scoring guard Shyla Heal named in the tournament’s All Star Five.

The Aussies came from behind to beat Hungary 57-51, once again securing a trip onto the medal dais, Heal leading the way averaging 16 points, 2.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds over the Sapphires’ seven games.

“It feels kind of surreal,” Heal said.

“You always dream about it as a kid - you train every day in the lead up. So to come third in the world out of so many countries is amazing.”

The USA crushed France 92-40 to claim Gold, France having “played its Final” in the semis where it upset Australia 68-58.

“We felt we should definitely have been in the Final, but we had a tough loss yesterday so we thought we’d bring it back for Australia and fight our hearts out today,” Heal said.

“I knew we were down and knew my team needed help and my team looks for me to step up in big moments so I thought ‘it’s my time - let's go’,” and she did, scoring 16 points in the second half to turn an eight-point deficit during the third quarter into a stunning victory.

A dour first half saw Australia ahead 19-17 at the main interval before falling behind and trailing 31-37 with a period to play.

Heal scored her first basket after 29 minutes but then struck gold, with 14 points to pull Australia to 47-47.

Her clutch bucket inside the last minute gave the Sapphires the edge and Australia clinched the medal from the free throw line.

Jul 30

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