The Tall Blacks delivered bronze on the final day of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, defeating a brave Scotland 79-69 on the back of a sublime offensive master class from Tom Abercrombie.
The sharpshooting swingman ended with 26 points on 9 of 15, nailing 6 of 9 from deep in a wonderful display of leadership borne of a fierce desire to go home with reward for the Games campaign.
Scotland threw everything into the match, staying in touch with the Tall Blacks for the majority of the first half and threatening to make it a tight finish, until the Tall Blacks shut down any chance of an upset and eased away to the bronze medal.
The match was played at 9am local time, barely 18 hours after the team lost their semifinal on the buzzer against Canada.
Head Coach Paul Henare spoke with great pride in his group, one that fought through some adversity and the disappointment of not playing for gold, to come away with a bronze medal.
“I am very proud, they have been fantastic these past couple of weeks, we have played at a really high level and at a not so high level at times, but the passion and fight and courage they play with is always pleasing, I just want to make sure they embrace and celebrate this moment. Not too many people in the world get to stand on the podium at the Commonwealth Games, they have earned that right and I am proud of them for doing that.”
The scoring was spread across the team behind Abercrombie, with multiple players contributing but no one else going into double figures. Rob Loe led the charge on the defensive end with 10 rebounds (and 6 points and 4 assists), as the minutes were spread by Coach Henare as he dealt with some weary bodies.
Abercrombie spoke of his fierce pride in the singlet and the battle that the Scots put up today.
“I am proud of the win and to win a bronze medal is something to be cherished, they made us earn it out there, Scotland had a hell of a game and we were a little bit disjointed at times and didn’t have the flow that we have had at times in this tournament, but we knew they were going to paly that way and it just makes the win a little bit more sweeter.
“I was hoping I wouldn’t have to play against the Scots, I have some Scottish blood in me, so I was excited to play against them and wanted to have a good game and come out and do whatever I could to win this bronze medal for the team and I am just happy I could contribute.”
Abercrombie was also upfront about the team’s goals on the Gold Coast, not shying away from a mix of emotions upon winning bronze.
“It was disappointing we didn’t give ourselves the opportunity to play for gold, that was our goal. But that was all our own doing and I am proud we could win bronze today, but in terms of our goals before the tournament, we didn’t achieve them, but I am still so proud of this team.”
Henare is already looking ahead to the next time the team will be back on court, in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers in June this year, with games in Rotorua and Auckland against Hong Kong and China.
“It has been a busy time of the year, some will go off into other seasons, but for most it is some downtime. As a group we will be back together as the Tall Blacks in June and July and continue our journey to hopefully quality for the World Cup, we are looking forward to those home games tremendously, but right now it will be home to family and friends for most of us.”
New Zealand 79 (Abercrombie 26)
Scotland 69 (Bunyan 13, Fraser 12)