Puerto Rico books historic quarters ticket

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Puerto Rico booked the last quarterfinal slot at the women’s basketball World Cup on Tuesday with a “fairytale” 92-73 win over South Korea, securing a knockout place for the first time.

Mya Hollingshed drilled a game-high 29 points and 12 rebounds in the do-or-die clash on the final day of group matches at the 10-day tournament in Sydney.

The defeat set the Koreans to an early exit as 17th-ranked Puerto Rico progressed with two wins from five in Group A, quickly taking the initiative to open an 18-point lead after the first quarter.

The Koreans, missing injured marquee star Park Ji-su, battled back in much tighter second and third quarters and came out on top in the fourth, but their slow start was fatal.

“Obviously, I’m very proud of our team. We have a mix of young players with veteran players,” Puerto Rico coach Jerry Batista said.

“So, for us who have been here for a couple of years working and trying to develop Puerto Rico basketball, it is so great.”

“It is like a fairytale. It shows that if you work, you can achieve everything,” he added.

Arella Guirantes has been a standout with her exceptional performances helping steer Puerto Rico to the playoffs in only their second World Cup, having failed to win a game at their first tournament in 2018.

The ever-dangerous shooting guard finished with 18 points, five rebounds and five assists.

South Korean coach Jung Sun-min said her players were tired after a grueling tournament but was gracious in defeat.

“The better team deserved the win today,” she said.

Puerto Rico joined 10-time champions the United States, hosts Australia, China, Belgium, Canada, France and Serbia in the last eight, which tips off on Thursday.

Who faces who will be determined after the last group games.

The US had already clinched top spot in Group A and will face the third- or fourth-placed team from Group B.

Whoever wins between China and Belgium will advance as Pool A’s second seed.

France, Canada and Australia all have an opportunity to win Group B or finish second to avoid the mighty Americans, depending on how they fare in their final clashes.

The French face Serbia and Canada take on a winless Mali, who are in disarray after two of their players were caught on camera fighting each other in a media zone after their loss on Monday.

Footage showed Salimatou Kourouma throwing at least three punches at some teammate as other Mali players rushed to intervene, with governing body FIBA opening a disciplinary investigation.

Australia have shaken off a rocky start against France to win three in a row and meet a Japanese team that has been a shadow of the one that took silver at their home Olympics in Tokyo.

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