Panousis & Tupaea named in Gems World Champs team

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Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames WNBL rising stars Vanessa Panousis and Tahlia Tupaea have been rewarded for their strong performances at the Reze International Tournament in France, after earning selection in the  Australian Gems final team for the 2013 FIBA Under 19 World Championship for Women in Lithuania from July 18-28. 

Panousis and Tupaea played their part in France as the Gems continued their impressive preparations for the World Champs, winning their four games by an average of more than 27 points.

Gems Head Coach Cheryl Chambers was pleased with her team’s performance as they build closer to the next month’s World Championships.

“It was a great team effort,” Chambers said.

“We’ve improved and we’re looking forward to the next phase of our preparation for World Championship.”

The Gems were flawless through the group stages, winning all three of their games comfortably.

It started with a comprehensive 79-29 thrashing of Russia, with all 12 members of the Australian outfitgetting on the scoresheet.

Poland came next and the Gems were again in control, defeating their opponents 59-37.

A place in the tournament final was ensured courtesy of another brilliant performance against Argentina, posting a comfortable 41-point win 84-43 to round out the preliminary rounds.

In the tournament final the Gems were given their toughest test, before finally prevailing with a 66-60 win over France. The game was won on the back of some calm free-throw shooting down the stretch from Tupaea – the squad’s youngest player – who celebrated her 16th birthday in France.

Panousis and Tupaea both graduated from the Sydney Uni Flames Academy Program last year – two years earlier the Flames launched the Program as part of the club’s ongoing commitment to developing elite young NSW female athletes. 

Panousis debuted for the Flames in season 2012/13, playing two games. In August last year Panousis inspired the Under 17 Australian women’s basketball team to finish the 2012 FIBA Under 17 Women’s World Championships in fifth place in Amsterdam.

Tupaea’s selection comes after playing nine games for the Flames last season, where she averaged seven minutes and 1.4 points per game. Back in October 2012 the baby faced Tupaea debuted against the West Coast Waves – she was just 15 years and 133 days old.

It has been a meteoric rise for the 174-centimetre guard. The year-10 student won selection on the Australian All Schools team, which toured Texas and Arizona in 2011, and last year she put in an MVP performance to steer club side Penrith Panthers to a Basketball NSW title.

Flames Head Coach Karen Dalton has also been named in the Gems squad as an Assistant Coach to Chambers.

The Gems depart Australia on July 14 for a series of pre-tournament games in Europe.

The 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women will be held in Lithuania from 18-28 July. The Gems will take on South American powerhouse Argentina in the early hours of July 19 before games against Japan and Spain.