Newcastle’s Katie Ebzery and the Australian Opals have claimed silver at the Women’s Basketball World Cup in Tenerife after falling to ten-time champions USA 56-73.

While the Opals had a strong showing across much of the international tournament, and key figure Liz Cambage collected MVP-like stats across their pool and elimination fixtures, Australia were stunned into a deficit early in the clash against the US, as the defending champions ran out 10 unanswered points to open the title fight.

Perhaps nerves got the better of the Australian representatives in just their second ever grand final berth at the biggest basketball tournament in the world, but the early start saw them in panic stations as they bombed 11 of their 12 attempted long-range shots, with guiding light Cambage locked out of the game early, starting 2 in 7 for the Opals.

For the Australians – and Waratah’s Ebzery – a second place run in Tenerife will still be a massive positive after their dominant tournament, especially considering its just the second time the international rep squad has reached the big dance at the competition – the first was the Opals’ gold medal victory in 2006.

A silver result will also be welcomed after the number of key injuries the squad suffered as Tenerife loomed, with many of the faces in the team just fledgling representatives on the world stage.

For Ebzery, the Spanish-hosted competition was a highlight, as she dropped 10 points and three assists in a tournament-high semi-final. Overall she claimed an average of 4.5 points per game, as well as 1.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists. She started for the squad as point guard.

Read more recent news

Despite falling one short of the major trophy at the event, Opals coach Sandy Brondello praised her side, especially considering the absences of veteran players Marianna Tolo and Leilani Mitchell due to injuries before the series began.

“Sometimes things happen for a reason because we gave great experiences to a lot of players here,” Brondello said. “The future of Australian basketball is in good hands because we are quite a young team.”

She also pinpointed the “emotional” semi-final clash against Spain as a point where the squad may have lost some of the wind in their metaphorical sails, and said she was “proud the team won silver”.

“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.”

After the silver medal finish in Spain, Ebzery now prepares for life with Perth Lynx in the WNBL, with her first match in new colours to be played on October 13 against Adelaide Lightning.