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Sydney (AFP) – Puerto Rico secured the final spot in the quarterfinals at the Women’s FIBA World Cup on Tuesday with a “fairytale” 92-73 win over South Korea, earning a knockout spot for the first time.
Mya Hollingshed posted a game-high 29 points and 12 rebounds in the fight for survival on the final day of group matches of the 10-day tournament in Sydney.
The defeat sent the Koreans to an early elimination as 17th-ranked Puerto Rico advanced with two wins from five in Group A and quickly seized the initiative to open an 18-point lead after the first quarter.
The Koreans, missing injured marquee star Park Ji-su, fought back much more closely in the second and third quarters and prevailed in the fourth quarter, but their slow start was fatal.
“Obviously we’re very proud of our team, we have a mix of young players and experienced players,” said Puerto Rico coach Jerry Batista.
“For us who have been working here for a couple of years trying to develop basketball in Puerto Rico, it’s great.
“It’s like a fairy tale … it shows that if you work, you can achieve anything,” he added.
Arella Guirantes has shown exceptional performances, helping lead Puerto Rico to the playoffs in only their second World Cup after failing to win a game in their first tournament in 2018.
The always dangerous shooting guard finished with 18 points, five rebounds and five assists.
South Korea coach Jung Sun-min said her players were tired after a grueling tournament but merciful in defeat.
“The better team deserved the win today,” she said.
Puerto Rico join ten-time champions USA, hosts Australia, China, Belgium, Canada, France and Serbia in Thursday’s round of eight.
Who competes against whom will be determined after the last group matches.
The USA have already secured first place in Group A and will meet the third or fourth placed team from Group B.
Whoever wins between China and Belgium will advance as the second seed from Pool A.
France, Canada and Australia all have the option of winning Group B or finishing second to avoid the mighty Americans depending on how they fare in their recent duels.
The French face Serbia and Canada in a winless Mali, who have been thrown into confusion after two of their players were caught on camera fighting each other in a media zone after their defeat on Monday.
Footage showed Salimatou Kourouma throwing at least three punches at a teammate as other Malian players rushed to intervene and governing body FIBA launched a disciplinary investigation.
Australia shrugged off a difficult start against France, winning three in a row and meeting a Japanese team that was a shadow of the one that won silver at the home Olympics in Tokyo.
© 2022 AFP