The New Zealand Under 18 men’s 3x3 team has won one and lost one on their first day at the FIBA U18 3x3 World Cup.
Their tournament opened against Georgia and it went down to the wire in what Head Coach Anthony Corban said slipped early from the New Zealand team.
“We started well and showed early composure to control the game, but our lack of international experience showed. As time went on we began to fall off close-outs on the perimeter and let some easy lay-ups in. Perhaps a little bit of frustration led to players trying to stop ‘the run’ by taking early two-point shots when we didn’t have floor balance. Georgia took advantage of that.”
The Georgians fought back to follow by one point at 20 to 19, then the Kiwis fouled a two point shot with seconds left in the game. It looked like that was it, with the Georgians needing to make both shots to win. Yet only one of two free throws were made and the game went to overtime, 20 points each. Now the first team to score two points would win.
“In over time we made poor tactical decisions early, such as continuing to try for a two point shot for the win. In a moment of clarity, we scored a layup and then an offensive tip in got us the win. I was proud of the team in the way all four players contributed,” said Corban.
Final score: New Zealand 22, Georgia 20.
New Zealand V Ukraine
About 90 minutes after defeating Georgia, the Kiwis took centre court again, this time against Ukraine.
This was Ukraine’s opening game of the tournament and Coach Corban did not have the opportunity to scout this opposition. Alternatively the Ukrainian team were courtside for the New Zealand verse Georgia game.
Despite having a pre-game tactical plan, Coach Corban said it wasn’t followed through on court.
“We knew Ukraine were going to move us around the court on and off the ball. We expected them to play a high energy offensive game, looking on slipping screens and taking lots of two point shots off their defensive rebounding. Ultimately though, we failed to front for this one and struggled,” said Corban.
Ukraine went ahead to lead by six before Rangimarie Mita took advantage of a Ukrainian slip, skipping around the defender’s flank for a layup and the team’s first point. But it wasn’t enough to spur the Kiwis on. Defence was an issue, surprisingly the team didn’t commit one team foul, not even in frustration.
“Ukraine showed their class as a well-drilled team,” said Corban.
“Our failure to front up in the heat and humidity was an issue later discussed at length in a team meeting and video session. This is a young group, so the experience in international basketball will be huge for these guys and we pride ourselves on performing a lot better in the black singlet.”
Although Corban clearly has points for his team’s improvement, the Kiwis did keep the Ukrainians to no more than 16. The Ukrainians also went on to defeat the defending champions Qatar.
Final Score: New Zealand 9. Ukraine 16.
Tomorrow is a rest day for the Kiwis, which Corban says will give an opportunity to visit a famed Panda Park close by, before returning to the court for training in the afternoon and another film session. On Day Four the Kiwis will play Qatar and Bahrain. Corban will be hoping to knock over Qatar, as that would open the Pool for a three-way tie and give the Kiwis a chance of advancing to the play offs.
The New Zealand verse Ukraine game can be seen at 1:18 here.
Watch the livestream of the tournament at www.youtube.com/fiba3x3
See the scores and results on the FIBA webpage here.