LONDON (AFP) –
Olympic all-time women’s basketball scoring leader Lauren Jackson found that taking home a bronze for Australia as a winner feels much better than settling for silver with a defeat.
The 1.96m star for the Women’s NBA Seattle Storm as well as the Aussie Opals scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Aussies over Russia 83-74 on Saturday, Australia claiming a medal for the fifth Olympics in a row.
“It feels better than when we won the silver,” Jackson said. “You don’t win the silver. You lose that game. We won this game. We won bronze.
“There was no way we were going home empty-handed.”
Australia, which lost to the United States in the semi-finals, also took bronze at the 1996 Olympics and captured silver in 2000, 2004 and 2008 with losses each time to US teams packed with WNBA talent in the final.
“I’m not going to shed any tears,” Jackson said about the bronze. “I am walking away with my head held high. I’m proud of the girls and we are about to go and have a few drinks. That was our best game. We finally put it together.”
Jackson boosted her record career Games total to 575 points while Kristi Harrower added 21 points in her Olympic farewell and Suzy Batkovic scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds for Australia.
“It’s special,” Harrower said. “I had a good game individually but it’s important that we won. Last three times we’ve lost and today we leave on a win.
“The girls put me on their shoulders after the match and it was a really special moment.”
Jackson did not address her own future for playing with the Opals at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, when she will be 35.
“I’m getting a bit old,” she said. “My body is feeling worn down although it’s funny I’m starting to feel I’m playing better basketball than I have in two years. Who knows?
“I just want this moment to be about Kristi and what she has done for basketball in Australia. She had the game of her life and led us. For her to have that game is fitting.”
Russia, which had taken bronze medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, was led by US-born Becky Hammon’s 19 points. She helped Russia pull within 76-71 with 80 seconds remaining before Harrower hit four late free throws to seal victory.
“We’re a young team. We are a rebuilding team. The future is bright for us,” said Hammon, who said she doubts she will play in the 2016 Games at age 39. “The team will do better next time.”