Tall Blacks win big in Beirut and turn focus to Rotorua

Tall Blacks win big in Beirut and turn focus to Rotorua

No sooner had the final buzzer gone in a dominant 107-66 win over Syria and MBO Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare had turned his attention to the Monday night game in Rotorua, when the Energy Events Centre will see Lebanon take on the New Zealand team.

The game in Beirut tonight had something of a surreal atmosphere to it, playing Syria in Lebanon in front of a crowd of 200 or so passionate fans (including a few Kiwis), it took some time for the New Zealanders to find their rhythm and flow.

Tai Webster was first to show out with back to back three’s sparking the New Zealanders to a first quarter 20-12 lead, but Henare was not overly pleased with the execution to that point and urged his team to higher standards.

The team responded from deep, ending the game with an impressive 16 of 32 from beyond the arc, with 8 players draining at least one triple, led by Webster (5 of 6) and Ethan Rusbatch, who came off the bench to drain two in the final quarter.

The nature of the game meant that Henare was able to rotate his roster and not over play anyone, with the game in Rotorua in the back of his mind. Ili played the most minutes with 22, while everyone else played at least ten minutes in a good hit out before the tougher clash with Lebanon at the Energy Events Centre.

All in all, Henare was pleased with the performance after a sluggish start.

“I thought we were a little ill-disciplined in the first half, especially at the defensive end. But we had high standards coming into the game and wanted to play our way and do things the way we wanted to do it, but it took us a while to get into the flow of the game. Once we did we moved the ball and got good shots and defensively we were a little more locked in to the game plan.

“Outside of maybe one or two of those attempts where we shot too early, the majority of the looks came from good ball movement and good pace. We tell the boys to take what is a good shot for them and if we can convert at that type of rate we will be in a good space.”

Henare is warning that Monday in Rotorua will be a very different prospect though.

“The biggest challenge is getting back in a good space mentally and physically. There has been a lot of preparation and planning for the trip home, it is not perfect, but we will make the best of what we have. We will make it a fun and enjoyable trip home, get a good sleep and be ready for the game.

“Lebanon will be a step up, they are a good basketball team. We will watch them on TV for a bit tonight before we head to the airport, it will be good for the guys to get eyes on them and get familiar with them. The coaches will share video on the way home – we have plenty of time for that! We have done plenty of preparation behind the scenes, we will share that with the boys and move on quickly to that game now.”


  • MBO Tall Blacks 107 (Ngatai 16, Fotu 16, Ili 16, T Webster 15)
  • Syria 66


FIBA World Cup Qualifying

Along with China and Korea, New Zealand has crossed over into Group E, carrying points from their earlier group with them (5 wins, 1 loss), and will play home and away games against Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Group F contains Australia, Iran, Philippines, Japan, Kazakhstan and Qatar.

The top three teams in each of the two final groups will qualify for China 2019, along with the best fourth placed team from the two final groups. Complicating the process is that China, as hosts of the World Cup, do not count in the final placings, but will continue to play out their remaining matches.

CLICK HERE for group standings and link to all remaining games

MBO Tall Blacks World Cup Qualifying

v Syria, September 13, Beirut, 5pm tip off local time
v Lebanon, September 17, Rotorua, 7pm tip off, tickets at www.ticketmaster.co.nz


Guards: Shea Ili, SKYCITY Breakers; Jarrod Kenny, Cairns Taipans; Ethan Rusbatch, Bay Hawks; Tai Webster, Galatasaray (Turkey). Forwards: Reuben Te Rangi, Brisbane Bullets; Dion Prewster, Bay Hawks; Jordan Ngatai, SKYCITY Breakers; Isaac Fotu, Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany); Finn Delany, SKYCITY Breakers; Mika Vukona, Brisbane Bullets. Centres: Rob Loe, Cairns Taipans; Tohi Smith-Milner, Melbourne United

Head Coach: Paul Henare
Assistant Coaches: Pero Cameron, Mike Fitchett
Physiotherapist: Anousith Bouaaphone
Massage Therapist: Shelley Moana Hiha
Manager: Andrew Dewhurst

MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND TWO

Date | Opponents | Home/Away

  • AWAY: 13 Sep 2018 vs Syria, Nouhad Nawfal Stadium, Zouk Mikael, Lebanon (Tall Blacks won 107-66)
  • HOME: 17 Sep 2018 vs Lebanon, Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. Tip off 7pm
  • HOME: 29 Nov 2018 vs Jordan, Horncastle Arena, Christchurch
  • HOME: 2 Dec 2018 vs Syria, TSB Bank Arena, Wellington
  • AWAY: 21 or 22 Feb 2019 vs Lebanon in Lebanon
  • AWAY: 24 or 25 Feb 2019 vs Jordan in Jordan

MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND ONE

Date | Opponents | Home/Away

  • 23 Nov 2017 vs Korea at TSB Bank Arena, Wellington. Tall Blacks lost 80-86
  • 26 Nov 2017 vs Hong Kong at Southourn Stadium, Hong Kong. Tall Blacks won 133-74
  • 23 Feb 2018 vs China at Dongguan Basketball Centre, China. Tall Blacks won 82-73
  • 26 Feb 2018 vs Korea at Jamsil Gymnasium, Seoul, South Korea. Tall Blacks won 93-84
  • 28 Jun 2018 vs Hong Kong at Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. Tall Blacks won 124-65
  • 1 Jul 2018 vs China vs Spark Arena, Auckland. Tall Blacks won 67-57

More information

• Learn more about the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers (Asia Zone) here.

• Tall Blacks supporters gear can be purchased here.

• Follow the Tall Blacks’ social media channels: @TallBlacks FacebookTwitterInstagram. Hashtags: #TuKaha #TallBlacks #FIBAWC #ThisIsMyHouse

• Tall Blacks website

 Read about Tu Kaha and the Tall Blacks culture 

• The games will be broadcast live by the Host Broadcaster, Maori Television.

Watch the Tu Kaha webisode series on the Tall Blacks here.


MBO Tall Blacks 107 (Ngatai 16, Fotu 16, Ili 16, T Webster 15)

Syria 66



MBO Tall Blacks 107 (Ngatai 16, Fotu 16, Ili 16, T Webster 15)

Syria 66