Breanna Stewart, U.S. women crush Australia to reach Olympic semifinals

By DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer

SAITAMA, Japan — Breanna Stewart scored 20 of her 23 points in the first half to help the U.S. beat Australia, 79-55, on Wednesday (Tuesday night PT) in the Olympic quarterfinals.

The Americans will face Serbia on Friday in the semifinals looking to advance to their seventh consecutive gold medal game. The Serbians, who won the bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Games, rallied to beat China, 77-70, in their quarterfinal.

For the first time since getting together about three weeks ago, the U.S. looked like the dominant team that’s won the last six gold medals and 53 consecutive games in the Olympics dating to the 1992 Barcelona Games.

During the pool-play games, the U.S. got of to slow starts, trailing after the first quarter in each contest. Stewart made sure that wouldn’t happen against Australia. Trailing 5-2, she scored seven consecutive points to start a 19-1 run. The Americans led 26-12 after the opening quarter as Australia had 10 turnovers in the period.

Australia was able to get within nine in the second quarter before the U.S. closed the half with a 20-8 run to go ahead, 48-27.

The Opals never threatened in the second half as the lead ballooned behind Brittney Griner, who scored 10 of her 15 points in the third quarter.

The U.S. and Australia are ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the world and usually meet later in the Olympics, but the Aussies barely qualified for the quarters. They needed at least a 24-point victory over Puerto Rico in the last game of pool play to advance.

The Opals have never beaten the U.S. in the Olympics, losing to the Americans in the gold medal game in 2000, ’04 and ’08. The Australians also lost in the semifinals of the 1996 and 2012 Olympics to the U.S.

They were looking for a different outcome in Japan. The teams played in Las Vegas last month in an exhibition game and Australia pulled off the upset victory. Diana Taurasi didn’t play in that game as she was recovering from a hip injury.

Leilani Mitchell scored 14 points to lead Australia, which will host the World Championship next year in Sydney.

GIVING IT A TRY

Australia’s Stephanie Talbot, who plays for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, played after missing the team’s last game against Puerto Rico. She only played a few minutes against China after missing the opener against Belgium because of an injured foot. She tested it out before the U.S. game and played 16 minutes, scoring four points.

CHEERING THEM ON

The Australian men’s team will face the U.S. men in the semifinals on Thursday. Most of the American men’s team arrived just before halftime to watch the women’s team play.

More to come on this story.

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Lyft driver convicted of raping passenger in O.C.

SANTA ANA — A 45-year-old Lyft driver is scheduled to be sentenced in October for raping a woman he was driving home nearly two years ago, according to court records obtained Monday.

Jorge Tapiacastro was convicted Wednesday of rape by use of drugs, rape, sexual battery and false imprisonment, all felonies. He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 1.

The victim was dropped off by her husband at a friend’s home in Costa Mesa on Aug. 31, 2019, where she drank four or five vodka sodas with a handful of friends, according to a trial brief from prosecutors.

About 9:30 p.m. that night she and two of her friends took an Uber ride to the Bungalow bar in Huntington Beach where she drank three to five more vodka sodas, prosecutors said.

About 12:30 a.m., Sept. 1, she used the Lyft app to call for a ride home, prosecutors said. She was picked up about 12:50 a.m. by the defendant, who pulled over about a half mile from her residence in Orange, got out and then got into the backseat with the victim, who said she had passed out, prosecutors said.

The defendant told the woman she was “beautiful” before he forced himself on her for a few minutes, prosecutors said. Then he got out and she also exited the vehicle before the defendant drove off, prosecutors said.

The woman called her friend and told her she was raped and didn’t know where she was, prosecutors said. Her friend told her to call her husband and she repeated the same to him, prosecutors said.

Her husband managed to find her around La Veta Avenue and Glassell Street and took her home before later taking her to a local hospital, prosecutors said.

The woman’s blood-alcohol level was .131 and DNA evidence linked Tapiacastro to the assault, prosecutors said.

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Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn erases nightmare of Rio

TOKYO >> Puerto Rican hurdler Jasmine Camacho-Quinn stood behind the starting blocks at Olympic Stadium 10 minutes before high noon.

Behind her a giant Olympic flag swayed slightly in the breeze.

In front of her the Olympic 100 meter hurdles final, a race that five years earlier in Rio de Janeiro had brought her to her knees.

Camacho-Quinn was so distraught over stumbling her way to a disqualification in the 2016 Olympic semifinals she essentially went into self-imposed hiding at the University of Kentucky for much of the first semester after her return from Brazil.

“I felt embarrassed,” she said “like I let the whole country down.”

And then she decided to stop hiding.

“Five years ago I said that I wasn’t going to let that race determine my future,” Camacho-Quinn said.

Instead she will forever be defined by two brilliant races within 17 hours, the second of which Camacho-Quinn captured the 100 hurdles gold medal and so much more for Puerto Rico.

“I am pretty sure everybody is celebrating, is excited. They’ve been through so much,” Camacho-Quinn said referring to a series of earthquakes that have hindered efforts to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017.  “For such a small country it gives people, little kids hope.”

She began sobbing and for a moment was unable to speak.

“I am just glad I am the person to do that. I am really happy right now (tears). Anything is possible.”

Camacho-Quinn was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of an American father, James Quinn, and a Puerto Rican mother, Maria Camacho. She decided to represent her mother’s native country in international competition.

“I’m 100 percent Puerto Rican,” she said.

At Kentucky she became the first freshman to win the NCAA 100 hurdles title and then turned pro.

“It’s been a roller coaster since I’ve been a pro,” she said.

With seven of 10 hurdles in the 2016 Olympic semifinal behind her, Camacho-Quinn appeared headed toward the final. But she clipped the eight hurdle throwing her off-stride, hit the ninth squarely with her lead leg, stumbling for three steps, unable to clear the 10th and final barrier. She lost her balance and swerved into the lane to her right, earning a disqualification, staggered across the finish line and dropped her knees, her face, her tears pressed against the track.

What she described as the “ups and downs” continued after Rio. Injuries kept her out of the 2019 World Championships in Doha.

But she put it together this season, riding a 13-race undefeated streak into Tokyo that included a 12.38 Diamond League victory in Florence.

Much of the pre-Olympic focus, however, was on Keni Harrison of the U.S., Camacho-Quinn’s former training partner.

Harrison had also been haunted by 2016. Then also the gold medal favorite, Harrison failed to make the U.S. team. A month later she found some consolation in breaking the 28-year-old world record with a 12.20 blast in a Diamond League meet in London. Harrison, like Camacho-Quinn, a former NCAA champion at Kentucky, found redemption in winning the U.S. Trials last month.

But Camacho-Quinn put Harrison and the rest of the field on notice Saturday night with an Olympic record 12.26 clocking in her semifinal.

Afterward she was asked not if she would win the following morning but if she would break Harrison’s world record.

“I just take it step by step,” she said. “Don’t overthink it, don’t panic and everything will happen.”

She followed her own advice for most of the final, blowing away Harrison and the rest until she let the world record creep into her mind in the race’s final stages.

“At this point I was really running for the world record,” Camacho-Quinn said. “I hit the hurdle, but everything happens for a reason. I came through with the gold. My first gold medal.”

This time she made it across the finish line in one piece her 12.37 still well ahead of Harrison (12.52) and Jamaica’s Megan Tapper (12.55).

“I almost fell when I crossed the line, didn’t.”

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