The New Zealand Under 18 men’s 3x3 team has racked up two more victories to advance through Pool B and into the Quarter Finals at the FIBA U18 World Cup in China.
Their first game was against Qatar and for Coach Anthony Corban, this was personal. He has had to wait 12 months to square up with Qatar after the Under 18 team lost to them in the Semi Final in Astana, Kazakhstan in 2016. And the Kiwis did square it, just.
Despite a blatant disrespect from one of the Qatar players towards the Kiwis pre-game Haka, who chose to stand amongst and behind the Kiwis as the challenge was laid down, it only fired the Kiwis resolve and Coach Corban said it was perhaps the extra vigour needed to win this game by one point.
“Every loose ball, every rebound we fought for. We were against a team that was clearly bigger and stronger physically, but our boys lifted and refused to back down. Our guards continued to attack the rim, drawing fouls and wearing out our much-hyped opponents. New Zealand should be so proud of these boys – the way they responded to such disregard for our haka, I’m proud of them.”
The game was all tied up. The key moment came with the late basket by Isaiah Jones which clinched a gutsy win, but then New Zealand’s transition into a defensive hustle was the key to denying Qatar any chance of scoring in the final play.
All four players contributed in this match, against Qatar who are known to bring in fierce naturalised players. Corban said the team seems to have settled in and each player is confidently stepping up.
“Will Heather is starting to shoot the two ball a lot better, he’s becoming more active as an offensive and defensive rebounder. Tabo [Manyere] has been our energiser off the bench. Attacking the basket and refusing to bow down to bigger opponents. And Both Isaiah [Jones] and Marnie [Rangimarie Mita] lead our group well,” said Coach Corban.
GAME TWO – BAHRAIN
The pressure was on the young Kiwis again, they knew a win against Bahrain would secure a quarter finals spot. To make it harder, they needed to stay on court and immediately back up after the draining Qatar game in over 30 degree heat.
Coach Corban said he was pleased that once the young Kiwis settled into their offensive system on dribble or pass clearances, it became a great flowing game.
“Collectively as a group we did a great job denying their big centre any easy low post catches. Our defensive scrambling to deny their outside shooters any easy looks was impressive too. Our shot selection was better—something we have had to work on.
“Also our execution of dead ball plays and identifying defensive weaknesses was crucial. Tabo Manyere had his best game of the tournament. A great rip and lay up off a dead ball a game highlight for me.
“Our collective on-court ownership was impressive. As a group we are learning and evolving,” said Corban, who will now be in the thick of studying game film of Hungary, who the Kiwis are bracketed to play next.
For more information on the tournament go here.
Game footage, Qatar from 1:12.