But another ejection from Cambage will also be an issue for Opals coach Sandy Brondello and her staff. Cambage let her fury at being held and pushed by multiple defenders result in two technical fouls, and her ejection with seven minutes to play.
The Opals were no guarantees to win at that point but they had cut the lead to just four points and Cambage was making an impact at both ends.
Cambage, who was returning to competition for the first time since the WNBA playoffs finished in late September, cut a frustrated figure throughout the game as multiple Japanese defenders appeared to hold her or limit her movement.
It’s no different to what Cambage cops in many international games and in the WNBL or overseas, but this time her remonstrations were met with technical fouls, first in the second quarter and then with seven minutes to play.
Cambage turned and made a difficult jump-shot despite being double-teamed and appeared to point or gesture with her finger directly at the nearby referee who gave her a second technical foul which meant she had to leave the court with 17 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
There is no doubt elite centres like Cambage or USA star Brittney Griner are held, pushed and worse by undersized opponents who decide fouling often and daring the referees to keep blowing the whistle is the best way to restrict such stars.
In this case, Cambage gave the Japanese exactly what they wanted and left her side short of their best inside scorer.
Cambage’s basket had cut the lead to four points after Japan had lead for almost the entire game after a flurry of 11 first half three-pointers saw them up 47-34 at half time.
Brondello put moved Jenna O’Hea (14 points, seven assists) to the power forward role to start the second half and in-form point guard Katie Ebzery into the starting group and it paid off as they cut the lead back to single figures.cam
But the Opals would get no closer than four points and now know they have much work to do ahead of February’s Olympic qualifying tournament.
Heartbreak for Tall Ferns
The New Zealand Tall Ferns tragically missed out on making the qualifying tournament, falling eight points short in Auckland on Sunday.
The Tall Ferns, coached by Melbourne Boomers coach Guy Molloy, needed to beat Korea by 12 points or more to finish in the top-two of their four-team pre-qualifying pool.
Despite being ranked well behind Korea, the Tall Ferns still managed a 69-65 win but dropped to third place after they tied with 2-1 records with Korea and China but trailed on for and against.
Melbourne Boomers centre Penina Davidson led the Tall Ferns with 24 points and 15 rebounds while forward Kalani Purcell had 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
The Tall Ferns had a strong lead for parts of the last quarter while Korea’s WNBA centre Ji Su Park was sidelined with a hip injury. Park limped back into the game in the final minutes and either scored and assisted in several key baskets to make sure her side progressed.
FIBA is expected to host the draw on November 27 for the four, four-team Olympic qualifying tournaments scheduled for February which will decide which 10 sides will join hosts Japan and reigning champions USA in Tokyo.
The WNBL season resumes on Friday night after pausing for these games.
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.