The MBO Tall Blacks had already booked their spot at the FIBA World Cup later this year, but fell at the final hurdle in their quest to qualify as top seeds in Asia, going down 86-80 against a desperate and fired up Jordan side playing for their own spot at the World Cup.
Played in another white-hot atmosphere, the already World Cup bound Tall Blacks fell behind in the third quarter and despite making a number of runs at the home team, they couldn’t quite bridge the gap and it was Jordan celebrating at the final buzzer.
It was another tough shooting night, with both sides struggling int the face of strong defence, the Tall Blacks shooting at 39% from the floor, and just 9 of 30 from deep. Best for the New Zealanders was Corey Webster with 18, while it was a supporting cast chipping in with Ili (16), Abercrombie (10) and Delany (10) all in double figures.
Henare was clearly disappointed with the loss, one that came on the back of a lack of composure and mistakes at crucial moments, but nonetheless was proud of a 10-win, 2-loss campaign that sees the Tall Blacks finish on top of Group E in Asian qualifying and head to another World Cup later this year.
“We started the whole thing with a loss and unfortunately finished with a loss. I said to the guys afterwards I never questioned their heart and the way they played, but there is definitely a lot to learn from the game and losing at this level the repercussions are harsh.
“Fortunately for us we have had a fantastic overall qualifying process and book our ticket for the World Cup, I am proud of our group for the work we have done.”
Henare said the way they lost hurt, with the key effort areas being ones the Tall Blacks are usually strong in.
“The biggest stat (to hurt us) was offensive rebounds, them having 25 offensive rebounds and getting 24 second chance points from that. At any level you can’t give away that many points and opportunities, especially on the road. That has traditionally been one of our strengths as a Tall Blacks group so to fall short there is disappointing. We have to learn from that.
“Even after all of that we had our chances and couldn’t close the gap at the end. We have shot the ball poorly the last couple of games for whatever reason, and you need to put the ball in the hole at important stages.”
Henare is already focused on the next goal, that of the World Cup itself in late August early September. The first part of that process will be whittling a quality group of players down to the 12 that can be selected to travel to China.
“We are faced with some difficult selection questions now, I think we have used 24 or 25 players in this campaign and that makes selection pretty tough.
“We have set some lofty goals for this group, at the World Cup and at the Olympics next year. It is tough at this level as we have just experienced, but with the right preparation, a little bit of luck and staying healthy and playing some quality basketball, we are more than capable of achieving some great things.”
The team now heads to different parts of the world, some back to NBL play off games, others to prepare for the Sal’s NZ NBL, while Finn Delany heads to Serbia for a stint playing in Europe. All though will be ruing a missed chance to qualify as top seeds out of Asia, but equally proud that they booked New Zealand a spot at the big dance later in the year.
Tall Blacks 80 (Webster 18, Ili 16, Abercrombie 10, Delany 10)
Jordan 86 (Tucker 25, Dwairi 15)
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MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND TWO
Date | Opponents | Home/Away
• AWAY: 13 Sep 2018 vs Syria, Nouhad Nawfal Stadium, Lebanon. Tall Blacks won 107-66
• HOME: 17 Sep 2018 vs Lebanon, Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. Tall Blacks won 63-60
• HOME: 29 Nov 2018 vs Jordan, Horncastle Arena, Christchurch. Tall Blacks won 95-69
• HOME: 2 Dec 2018 vs Syria, TSB Bank Arena, Wellington. Tall Blacks won 97-74
• AWAY: 21 or 22 Feb 2019 vs Lebanon in Lebanon. Tall Blacks won 69-67
• AWAY: 24 or 25 Feb 2019 vs Jordan in Jordan . Tall Blacks lost 86-80
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
• Learn more about the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers (Asia Zone)
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• Tall Blacks website
• Read about Tū Kaha and the Tall Blacks culture
• The games will be broadcast live by the Host Broadcaster, Maori Television
• Watch the Tū Kaha webisode series on the Tall Blacks.