Penaluna chasing London dream
Guy Hand
09:57 AEST Sat Sep 10 2011

Having helped secure Australia's place at the Olympics, Opals basketballer Elyse Penaluna hopes she may have helped secure hers.

The 23-year-old came off the bench to be a prime mover in the Opals' 19-point win over New Zealand in Brisbane which sealed their Oceania qualifying series and direct qualification for London.

The 193cm centre, who had a breakout WNBL season with champions Bulleen Boomers, was crucial in the third quarter in Friday night's match at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

She tipped in 11 of her 17 points for the match in the term - just the offensive spark the Opals needed to see off the Tall Ferns 92-73 and take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the best-of-three series.

With a host of key players missing for the New Zealand series, competition is set to ramp up for the 12 places available for London when six missing WNBA stars headed by Lauren Jackson, as well as injured three-time Olympian Kristi Harrower, return.

Such is Australia's women's basketball depth that any of 20 players could have realistic claims for London.

And that was reinforced by the clinical manner in which the fringe Opals got the job done against New Zealand.

Penaluna is still a work-in-progress by her own admission, but admits she is becoming more comfortable with the rigours of international basketball as opposed to a WNBL she lit up last season.

"I still feel I'm on a little bit of a rollercoaster with it (international basketball) but with the help of the coaches I'm getting there slowly but surely," Penaluna said.

"I've got a lot of work to do, but I'm getting there. I'll continue to improve hopefully and hopefully secure a spot in the 12 going to London.

"It's a pretty awesome feeling (qualifying for London), but it was a great team effort tonight - it wasn't just about me scoring. But I'm happy with my personal game."

Opals coach Carrie Graf says she is likely to experiment with personnel and tactics in game three of the Oceania series at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on Sunday.

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