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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Opals coach happy to leave door open for Jackson

Lauren Jackson shocked the basketball world with her retirement announcement, but Opals coach Sandy Brondello hasn't ruled out a fifth Olympics for the legend.

Opals coach Sandy Brondello has left the door ajar for legendary Lauren Jackson to participate in the Paris Olympics, but won't pressure her into doing so.

Jackson sat out Australia's thrilling 75-73 victory over Serbia in Belem, Brazil, on Sunday (Monday AEDT), which secured the Opals a 3-0 sweep of their Olympic qualifiers.

Australia's greatest-ever basketballer, Jackson played in the Opals' win against Germany 24 hours earlier, before making a shock announcement in a post-match on-court interview that she would be retiring and won't feature in her fifth Games.

"Lauren needs to do what's best for Lauren," Brondello said of Jackson, who turns 43 two months before the Olympics.

"Her legacy is already set. It's (about) what Lauren wants now.

"I think she could still play - she's in way better shape than she was in at the (2022) World Cup.

"We'll give her the space, there's no pressure from us. We'll support her.

"I think she can still play, but if she doesn't that's fine too."

With Jackson and captain Tess Madgen out, the third-ranked Opals narrowly squeaked home against world No.10 Serbia, veteran centre Marianna Tolo (13 points, seven rebounds) and 19-year-old guard Isobel Borlase (12 points) leading an even charge.

Australia led by six points inside the final 30 seconds, before Serbia produced three big plays - Mina Djordjevic's deuce, Yvonne Anderson's steal and Angela Dugalic's bomb from almost halfway - to trim the margin to one point inside the last second.

Serbia quickly fouled Jade Melbourne with 0.3 seconds remaining, and the young Aussie guard hit her first free throw before deliberately missing the second to ensure Serbia couldn't set up one last play.

Anderson (20 points) and Dragana Stankovic (16) led the way for the Serbs, whose early 10-0 burst set up a 22-12 quarter-time break.

The Opals switched to a zone defence, which forced Serbia into errant long-range shots, which they were less comfortable with.

Tolo and Borlase combined to spearhead a 9-0 run to drag Australia back into the contest and into the lead 35-34 at half-time, then 51-48 at the last change.

Their rebounding indifferent and their ball-handling sloppy, the Opals fell behind 64-59 midway through the fourth, before Bec Allen and Melbourne inspired an 11-1 surge to regain control. 


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