The Aon New Zealand Under 17s have fallen at the hands of Australia in the semi-finals of the FIBA Asian Championship.
Australia used an efficient offensive attack and some sturdy defence to take down New Zealand on Saturday night, winning by a final score of 86-61.
Australia managed to establish an early lead thanks to some hot shooting, but New Zealand were pounding the ball inside, drawing fouls at a prolific rate. It was clearly a deliberate gameplan by New Zealand to drive into the paint and create contact, and it was working effectively in the first quarter.
New Zealand shot 8-of-12 from the free throw line in the quarter alone, but their field goal shooting (5-of-17) was holding them back from more success. Australia led 25-21 after 10 minutes.
New Zealand struggled to begin the second quarter, Australia opening on a 14-0 run to take a 39-21 lead before a Kainoa Lepou 3-pointer stopped the bleeding. New Zealand were being hounded on defence and couldn’t get anything going; a testament to the adjustments made by Australia in the second quarter. New Zealand, though, refused to roll over, responding with a 15-7 run to close the first half. They kept within striking distance, trailing 36-46 at halftime.
Australia led by as much as 17 in the third quarter, but New Zealand, again, closed the quarter strong and kept the deficit at 10; some effective 3-point shooting helping them hang around.
However, New Zealand ran out of gas in the fourth quarter, with four games on four consecutive nights seemingly taking a toll down the stretch. They were outscored 24-9 over the final 10 minutes of the game but fought until the final buzzer against a tough Australian squad.
Shalom Broughton top-scored for New Zealand, compiling 14 points with five rebounds and three assists (4-of-7 FGs). Tom Cowie added 12 points, while Mitchell Dance and Kainoa Lepou each scored 10.
Australia were scorching hot from the field, shooting 67.9 per cent and 61.1 per cent (11-of-18) from three. They also took superb care of the ball, committing just three turnovers throughout the entire game.
New Zealand also shot the ball well, making 44 per cent of their field goals and 52.9 per cent (9-of-17) of their 3-pointers. After their successful first quarter getting to the line, New Zealand didn’t shoot another free throw for the remainder of the game.
New Zealand head coach Dave Bublitz said Australia’s defence and hot-shooting was too much to overcome.
“The boys played well for three quarters,” said Bublitz. “The sustained length and defensive pressure of Australia was too tough in the end and the boys got worn down.
“Points in the paint were hard to come by and this has been an important part of our play to this point. A slow start in the fourth quarter where we missed a number of two-footers and the Australian No. 9 (Wani Swaka Lo Buluk) was down the other end draining threes which blew the score out,” he said.
“Two or three minutes of bad basketball at this level can result in a 10-12-point difference. Consistency is something this team must attain if we want to compete at this level,” said Bublitz.
New Zealand will play-off for third place against an opponent TBD on Sunday.
· The team roster: http://nz.basketball/News/aon-nz-u17-boys-named-as-fiba-draws-asia-cup
· See FIBA’s tournament website here: http://www.fiba.basketball/asia/u16/2017/news/draw-results-in-for-fiba-u16-asian-championship
· More basketball news at www.nz.basketball and Basketball New Zealand’s social media channels: @BasketballNZ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.