Despite 22 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists from Captain Charlisse Leger-Walker, the Aon New Zealand U17 team went down 97-65 to Japan in the semi-final of the FIBA Asian Championship in Bangalore overnight.
The highly regarded Japanese side moves on to face Australia in the Grand Final. New Zealand will face China in the Bronze Medal game (tip-off 11.00pm, Saturday NZT).
New Zealand made the slightly better start in a pacey opening quarter forging a 15-10 lead as Leger-Walker, Sharne Pupuke-Robati, Tayla Dalton and Briarley Rogers all found their way to the hoop.
The Japanese who took a 25-16 lead into the quarter-time break quickly overhauled that advantage.
Any New Zealand mistake was punished by the speed of the Japanese transition offence as they increased their lead to 37-20. Five points from Rogers in the middle of a 9-2 Kiwi run offered some relief, although the Kiwis trailed 41-28 with three minutes to play in the opening half.
Isabelle Cook scored inside, but the Kiwis were left to rue14 first-half turnovers and trailed 48-29 at half-time. Pupuke-Robati led the New Zealand scoring at the interval with nine points despite the Japanese often double teaming the power forward.
A Dalton put-back sandwiched between a brace of baskets from both Leger-Walker and Pupuke-Robati kept the Ferns in touch early in the third, but the speed and efficiency of the Japanese offence continued to trouble the Kiwis who fell behind 65-39.
A three from the skipper and scores from Tessa Talo-Tomokino and Kyra Paniora helped the New Zealand cause, but it still trailed 70-48 at three-quarter time.
The classy Leger-Walker knocked down back-to-back triples and Helen Mathews scored seven points in the final stanza, but the Japanese lead was never threatened and they ran out deserved winners.
To their credit New Zealand won the rebounding count 42-39 and reduced their turnovers in the second-half, but were ultimately beaten by a side that shot the ball well – 51% FG (40 from 79) including 36% (9 from 25) from beyond the arc compared with 39%FG and 25%3PG from the Kiwis.
Head Coach Lori McDaniel was disappointed with the result, but gave credit to the polish of the opposition.
“It was a disappointing finish to a very talented Japanese team, they are a great team and it was a good opportunity for us to see what we need to do to compete at the top level.
“We started the first quarter extremely well, ran the game plan and then I think fitness just came into play quite a lot. There was some bad decision making that contributed to the loss.”
NZ 65 – Leger-Walker 22p/7r/5a, Pupuke-Robati 12p/8r, Rogers 9, Matthews 8, Dalton 4, Talo-Tomokino 4, Paniora 2, Lokotui 2, Cook 2p/5r, Bradley 0p/6r
Japan 97 – Shuto 24, Hayashi 19, Hirashita 14
The top four teams at the Asian Championship (New Zealand, Australia, Japan and China) have qualified for the 2018 FIBA U17 Women’s Basketball World Cup, which is to be played in Minsk, Belarus next July.
New Zealand was drawn in ‘Group A’ alongside Australia (L 61-43), Korea (W 74-44) and Chinese Taipei (W 71-66).
NZ defeated Thailand 80-52 in their quarter-final game.
NZ Under 17 Women’s Team:
• Ella Bradley (Waikato Basketball Council)
• Isabelle Cook (Taranaki Country Basketball Association)
• Tayla Dalton (Harbour Basketball)
• Charlisse Leger-Walker (Waikato Basketball Council)
• Paris Lokotui (Wellington Basketball Association)
• Jordyn Maddix (Harbour Basketball)
• Helen Matthews (North Canterbury Basketball Association)
• Kyra Paniora (Australia)
• Sharne Pupuke-Robati (Auckland Counties Manukau)
• Briarley Rogers (Tauranga City Basketball Association)
• Rosalia Samia (Basketball Hawkes Bay)
• Tessalonia Talo-Tomokino (Harbour Basketball)
• Lori McDaniel – Head Coach
• Jody Cameron – Assistant Coach
• Gina Farmer – Assistant Coach
• Ushma Shah – Manager
• Tegan Tapara – Physiotherapist
• Delwyn Whale – Head of Delegation
For more on the FIBA U16 Women’s Asia Cup, including information about livestreaming, games and times, go to the official FIBA website here: http://www.fiba.basketball/asia/u16women/2017
*Clarification: Please note that New Zealand and FIBA’s terminology are different – FIBA Under 16’s means 16 years and younger, which is the equivalent of New Zealand’s Under 17’s.