The Tall Blacks are into the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games basketball semifinals, after a comfortable 82-60 defeat of Canada in Cairns tonight, with New Zealand finishing second behind Australia in the top seeded pool and booking a place in the semifinals back on the Gold Coast on the 14th April (12:30pm tip off local time).
It is a testament to the quality of the New Zealand side that they progressed tonight on the back of a less than perfect performance, as the team struggled to find their best form but still found a way to win, doing so on the back of another strong performance from Tom Abercrombie (17 points, 9 rebounds), with good support from Finn Delany (15 & 6) and Rob Loe (13 points on 5 of 7 shooting), while Alex Pledger was busy in the paint with 6 points and 6 boards in 14 minutes off the bench, again proving his worth to the national team.
After a scrappy performance, Head Coach Paul Henare stayed focused on the upside as the team now contemplates travel back to the main Gold Coast Village and a semifinal against the winner of Canada and England.
“In the lead up to this campaign I have been super excited at the opportunity in front of these guys, the Tall Blacks at the Commonwealth Games rarely happens. I am just so happy that this group has the chance to play for a medal at the semifinal stage and we have got there playing a really good mix.
“I thought we had two really good games against Nigeria and Australia and while we dropped off a little tonight, that is tournament play, you sometimes have to find a way to win and battle away. We will take the result and find ways to improve, the great thing for us is we now have four days to prepare for a semifinal and we are looking ahead.”
The Tall Blacks never looked like losing, leading for the entire match despite conceding 26 turnovers as Canada got into the Tall Blacks offence.
“We will focus on what is relevant for us moving forward, we have to keep an eye on what we can improve, but we also need to talk about and reinforce the good habits and good things we have done well this weekend as we go into knock out basketball.”
The Tall Blacks could yet face Canada again on the 14th, as they face off against England in Cairns tomorrow.
“Our opponent is up for grabs right now, they are going into a quarter final and anything can happen. It could be Canada and if it is we will be ready, but equally it could be England, either way we will make sure we are ready to get enough information through to the boys.”
The team will travel to the Gold Coast on Tuesday, after minutes were shared on the floor tonight with no one playing more than 23 minutes as Henare had an eye on the semifinals, as well as ensuring they did enough to beat the plucky Canadians.
New Zealand 82 (Abercrombie 17, Delany 15, Loe 13)
Canada 60 (Kapinga 12, Diawara 10)