READ MORE - Shyla Heal sparkles with Spirit
BENDIGO Spirit's Tessa Lavey contributed five points in Australia's Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament opener in Malaysia.
The Opals comfortably defeated Chinese Taipei 84-51.
Back in action following their third-placed finish at September's FIBA Asia Cup, the Opals were a class above their opponents as they strive for a top-two finish to progress to next year's final qualifying tournament.
Bolstered by the addition of Liz Cambage and Mariana Tolo, Australia led from start to finish at MABA Stadium in Kuala Lumpur to make a positive start to the three-game tournament.
After missing the Asia Cup due to WNBA commitments, Cambage led the Opals with 16 points, six rebounds and three blocks, with Asia Cup All-Star Five selection Bec Allen continuing her fine form for her country with 13 points.
Cayla George scored all 12 of her points in the second quarter and added nine rebounds, while Steph Talbot made the most of her move into the starting five with 11 points and eight rebounds.
The Opals made over 60 per cent of their field goals and out-rebounded Taiwan 50-25, but a 22-12 turnover count will be an area of concern for coach Sandy Brondello.
Cambage and Allen combined for 15 first-quarter points to guide the Opals to a 26-9 advantage, Taiwan only making three of their 16 shot attempts as they struggled to break down the Opals' stern defence.
Taiwan was able to match it with the Opals through the opening minutes of the second term, but Cayla George stepped up with a pair of triples in her 12-point haul as the lead blew out to 48-22 at half-time.
Cambage continued her battle down low against multiple defenders in the third quarter, but it was the Opals' reserves that put the result beyond doubt as Tess Madgen, Katie-Rae Ebzery, Lavey and Jenna O'Hea all drilled three-pointers for an unassailable 72-33 lead.
Taiwan got the best of a scrappy final quarter to outscore Australia 18-12 but the Opals now prepare for Saturday's clash with India, knowing that a victory should see them advance to the final stage of qualifying.
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