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27 September
05 October, 2014
14 Marianna TOLO (Australia)
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Tolo answers the call of duty

ISTANBUL (FIBA World Championship for Women) - All basketball players experience highs and lows.

Australia pivot Marianna Tolo understands this very well.

The 1.96m center realized a dream when she gained a place in the Australian Opals senior squad for the first time and played at the 2007 FIBA Oceania Championship against New Zealand.

She hit another high when former coach Carrie Graf took her to the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women in the Czech Republic.

Tolo two years later experienced her biggest disappointment when Graf decided not to take her with the Opals to the Olympics.

Now the 25-year-old is on a high again.

She's in the clouds after putting on the finest performance of her career at the FIBA World Championship for Women.

Just a week before the start of the event in Turkey, Tolo saw her role go from being back-up center to starter after first-choice pivot Liz Cambage ruptured her Achilles tendon.

Tolo proved to be a tower of strength, leading the Opals in scoring (12.2ppg) and rebounds (5.2rpg) and helping them capture the bronze medal.

"It's been awesome," Tolo said to FIBA.com.

"It was tough at the start because having Liz Cambage out late in the preparation, I had a massive role change. Coming in and starting, that was huge for me."

Tolo knew what she had to do.

"My whole focus was to come in and defend," she said.

"If you defend, things are going to flow into place on the offense. I was able to do that and towards the end of the tournament, that kept it going for me."

Tolo had in fact had big games before.

With Bourges in the 2013-14 EuroLeague Women, she scored 22 points in a 77-69 upset of then defending champions UMMC Ekaterinburg.

She reached double digits in points in 11 of the team's 16 EuroLeague Women games, but there was no guarantee that she could have that sort of impact for the Opals on the much bigger stage of the World Championship.

The Mackay, Australia, native ended up averaging almost 23 minutes per game in Turkey, though.

The experience has bolstered her confidence and made her, she says, a much better player.

"Yes, definitely," she said.

"It's such a good experience to have six games like that.

"Each game was tougher and tougher.

"It was good to have that challenge and to be able to step up."

Tolo and Australia played so well at the World Championship that some felt they had the second best side in the competition after the United States.

Because of the draw, however, they ended up facing the Americans in the Semi-Finals in a battle of unbeatens and not the Final.

The Opals, who will be big favorites against New Zealand in the 2015 FIBA Oceania Championship, could be the team with the best chance of surprising the Americans at the 2016 Olympics.

"We just have to keep doing what we are doing and hopefully, some shots will fall next time," she said.

"That was, I think, what hurt us (against the USA). We'll keep working at it."

The return of Cambage could affect Tolo's role.

"It will just be how it is," she said.

"I'm used to being behind Liz and I'm happy with either role. I'm fine with it."

Australia didn't get the title they craved in Turkey, yet they still reached the podium.

"It was tough having a Semi-Final against the U.S. which was sort of like a gold medal game," she said, "but credit to us that we came out firing against Turkey and we stepped up after such a tough loss and just nailed it on defense."

Everyone will know that Tolo stepped up for the entire tournament.

It bodes well for her future, and the Opals'.