The Junior Tall Blacks have placed second at the FIBA Under 18 Asian Championship following a 72-63 loss to Australia in the final.
New Zealand managed to jump out to an early 11-7 lead in the first quarter, but Australia rattled off a 19-0 scoring run to take a 26-11 lead into the second. After a solid start to the game, New Zealand struggled to get anything going offensively and it caused them to fall behind. Australia was one of the top defensive teams at the tournament and it showed early.
The offence started flowing for New Zealand in the second quarter, though. They went on a 15-6 run to cut the deficit to six points with three minutes left in the quarter. NZ had reasserted themselves back in the game, despite trailing 37-26 at halftime after a buzzer beater by Australia.
Australia would come out firing to begin the second half with an 8-0 run to push the lead to 19. New Zealand, though, would work back into the game yet again, reducing the gap to 57-50 heading into the fourth. The hustle and relentless effort were keeping things close with just 10 minutes left.
In the end, Australia proved too much to overcome and were able to hold on for the win. New Zealand played hard until the final buzzer, capping off an impressive effort despite the final result. The team and its coaching staff deserve a ton of credit for bouncing back the way they did, especially after losing to Australia by 49 points during pool play.
Maxwell Darling top-scored for New Zealand with 20 points and eight rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting from the field (1-of-3 3PT). Flynn Cameron was productive again with 16 points, four rebounds, five assists and three steals on 7-of-15 shooting and 2-of-5 from three, while Kruz Perrott-Hunt capped off a solid tournament with 16 points on 7-of-21 shooting from the floor.
Head Coach Gavin Briggs said he’s proud of the team’s effort and overall performance during the tournament.
“What a great game from the boys. To turn around a 49-point loss earlier in the tournament to nine today is phenomenal. That first quarter was the telling difference. We struggled to score and fell behind, and then it was just a grind to get back into it. The boys really brought into the gameplan, though, and adjusted from the previous loss; they executed very well despite the result.
“To put it into perspective, we finished second and qualified for the World Cup. It was a great effort by all the staff and the players involved.”
A second-place finish is an incredible achievement for New Zealand, especially considering the wealth of talented teams at the tournament. Their strong play in Thailand will certainly put other teams on alert come the World Cup in 2019.
2018 Junior Tall Blacks (New Zealand Under 19)
Flynn Cameron, New Zealand
Matthew O’Connell, Taranaki
Tama Faamausili, Palmerston North
Max DeGeest, Canterbury
Kruz Perrott-Hunt, Harbour
Oscar Oswald, Palmerston North
Maxim Stephens, Waikato
Max Darling, Canterbury
Tomas Higgins, Canterbury
James Moors, Harbour
Sam Mennenga, Harbour
Nathan Hanna, Otago
Gavin Briggs - Head Coach
Miles Pearce - Assistant Coach
Leyton Haddleton - Assistant Coach
Charles Maaka - Team Manager
Dawn Chalmers - Team Physio
· See FIBA’s tournament website here: https://www.fiba.basketball/asia/u18/2018
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