8 Sep 2011

Boomers, Opals win first-up Olympic qualifiers

7:18 am on 8 September 2011

Australia's men's and women's basketball teams both beat their New Zealand rivals by 13-point margins in last night's opening games of their Olympic qualifying series in Melbourne.

In a fiery men's game the Boomers beat the Tall Blacks 91-78, and the Australian Opals beat New Zealand's Tall Ferns 77-64.

A physical men's game simmered from tip-off and erupted with the game evenly poised midway through the third quarter. The feisty Tall Blacks guard Mark Dickel was ejected from the game amid a flurry of technical fouls, but no further action will be taken against him so he's free to play in the next game.

Kirk Penney starred with a game-high 30 points, 16 in the first half, to keep the New Zealanders within two points at half-time - but a huge third quarter swung things Australia's way after the first scuffle, when the score was 61-56 in favour of the hosts.

The Boomers seemed to find something extra coming out of the incident, igniting to go on a 21-4 run.

In the women's game Australia, without eight of their regulars, made the most of their huge height advantage to win comfortably although the Tall Ferns stayed within striking distance, and wound back a 20-point third quarter deficit to eight midway through the final term.

The Opals have been the silver medallists at the last three Olympics.

The second games in the best-of-three series are tomorrow night in Brisbane. The Tall Ferns' star point guard Angela Marino is tipped to return for game two from a back injury.

Guard Corey Webster was sent home before the opening game for a breach of team discipline, believed to be the Breakers player's second drugs offence.

Hawke's Bay's Jarrod Kenny replaces Webster for game two.