Opals coach Sandy Brondello believes the future of women's basketball in Australia is in good hands after an impressive showing at the World Cup.
Led by powerhouse centre Liz Cambage and featuring Newcastle’s Katie Ebzery at point guard, Australia eased through the group phase in Tenerife and defeated China in the quarter-finals before knocking out Spain to reach the tournament final.
Australia's run to the gold medal game sparked hopes of claiming a second world title to add to their victory in 2006.
But the talent and experience of the United States came to the fore in the decider as the tournament favourites claimed their third consecutive World Cup. It was the Americans' 18th consecutive World Cup win over Australia.
"I'm very proud of the team to win a silver medal," Brondello said after the US defeated the Opals 73-56.
"It's hard to win any medal at any major championship and we faced a lot of adversity just to get here.
"I'm disappointed with the game and how it went but very proud of this team."
Brondello felt the dramatic 72-66 semi-final win over the tournament hosts took its toll on the squad.
"We were probably a little spent to be honest, especially Liz after the emotional game last night against Spain," she said. "We just weren't at the best of our game but maybe that's because of the opponent as well."
Ebzery had 10 points, with four of nine shooting, and three assists in the semi-final against Spain to highlight her tournament.
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The starting point guard finished with six points in the decider and 27 overall for the tournament. She averaged 4.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists across Australia’s six matches.
The US enhanced their reputation as the best team in the world by jumping out of the blocks in the final with 10 unanswered points before they outscored Australia 26-11 in the decisive third quarter.
"We were only down by eight at half-time ... we knew the first five minutes of the third quarter were critical but we just didn't have it in us and they did," Brondello said.
Despite being held to seven points in the final, Cambage led the tournament in points per game (23.8) and blocks (2.8) and was second in rebounding (10.5) on her way to selection in the FIBA World Cup All-Star Five.
While injuries kept experienced campaigners Marianna Tolo and Leilani Mitchell out of the tournament, Brondello believed her younger players would only benefit from the exposure to elite competition.
"Sometimes things happen for a reason because we gave great experiences to a lot of players here," she said.
"The future of Australian basketball is in good hands because we are quite a young team."
Alanna Smith top-scored for the Opals in the final with 10 points while Alex Bunton and teenager Ezi Magbegor also made an impact.
"The future looks good but we know we have to continue to develop," Brondello said. "We can't sit still and they will develop with the more experience they have."