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Australia's 'Opals' win basketball gold

Written by: Staff

MELBOURNE, Mar 23 (Reuters) Australia won the first Commonwealth Games basketball gold medal with a blow-out 77-39 win over New Zealand in the women's final today.

Towering centre Lauren Jackson, averaging 33 points a game during the tournament, led the way with 23 points and hauled down 11 rebounds as the ''Opals'' overwhelmed the Kiwis.

New Zealand had no answer to the home team's suffocating defence, committing 33 turnovers in an embarrassingly one-sided game.

With Jackson dominating inside, Australia raced to a 38-19 half-time lead and restricted New Zealand to just six points in the third quarter.

''This is so awesome,'' said the 195cm-tall Jackson, widely regarded as the world's best woman player. ''I never thought I would get the chance to play for my country again in Australia.'' New Zealand coach Mike McHugh attempted to put a positive spin on his team's lop-sided loss in the first Commonwealth Games basketball final.

''I was very proud of our kids,'' he said. ''We lost by 38 but we still won silver.'' Australia take on New Zealand in the men's final on Friday.

Basketball is making its Commonwealth Games debut in Melbourne and has attracted sell-out crowds. It has yet to be confirmed for the 2010 Games in Delhi.

Reuters PDS DB1849

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