The Tall Ferns opened their Commonwealth Games campaign against Malaysia in Cairns on Thursday evening with a comprehensive 86-44 victory. Only six places separate the two teams on the FIBA rankings but the New Zealand up-tempo game proved too much for the Malaysians.
16 year-old Charlisse Leger-Walker not only made her debut in this opening game but was also given a starting berth alongside Micaela Cocks, Jordan Hunter and sisters Natalie Taylor and Kalani Purcell. Leger-Walker rewarded coach Guy Molloy’s faith in the teenager by scoring New Zealand’s opening basket of the tournament, going on to record 9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals and looking very comfortable at senior international level.
Molloy used ten players in the opening quarter and seven got on the scoresheet as the Kiwis forged a 24-10 advantage.
Cocks became the first Fern into double figures as the lead hit 20 points, extended to 51-25 at half-time.
Malaysia failed to score until the last two minutes of the third quarter although the Tall Ferns offence also stalled somewhat in the period. However a tumbling drive from Erin Rooney and a triple from Hunter stretched the Tall Fern’s lead to 66-28 at the three-quarter mark.
Purcell (12 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 points) was her normal rebounding colossus as New Zealand owned the boards 63-29. In addition the Tall Ferns pressure defence forced their opponents into 28 turnovers. “We wanted to speed Malaysia up and take them away from their settled game and that plan really came to fruition in the third quarter,” said Tall Ferns Head Coach Guy Molloy.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t score one hundred points, our shooting fell way off in the second half. It’s been a big area of improvement for us - we had lots of good looks but just couldn’t convert. The lack of finishing is probably the only stain on a decent first up performance,” Molloy added.
Toni Farnworth (11 points, 5 rebounds) was happy with the team’s overall performance, “We have put a lot of work in implementing Guy’s game style over the last two weeks so it is very pleasing to get a first up win. We didn’t know what to expect from Malaysia but in the first half in particular it was fun as we put into practice what we wanted to do.
The Tall Ferns next face Jamaica on Saturday followed by their final Pool B game against India the following day.
In the other pool B game played earlier in the day Jamaica beat India 66-57.
NZ 86 – Cocks 15, Stockill 13,Farnworth 13, Paalvast 9, Leger-Walker 9, Hunter 8, Bygate 6, Taylor 6, Rooney 4, Purcell 4, Jillings 1
Malaysia 44 – Yap 12, Low 9
The Tall Ferns need to finish in one of the top two spots in Pool B in order to progress to the Qualifying Final (the equivalent of a quarter final) against one of the bottom two placed teams in Pool A. That game is scheduled to be played in Townsville next Tuesday.
Broadcast by Television New Zealand https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/commonwealth-games/schedule
Tall Ferns Pool Games (tip-off times all NZT)
• Vs Malaysia, 5 April, 11.00pm
• Vs Jamaica, 7 April, 1.30pm
• Vs India, 8 April 7.30pm
• The team roster: http://nz.basketball/News/tall-ferns-named-for-commonwealth-games
• 2018 Commonwealth Games Basketball Schedule: https://www.gc2018.com/sport/basketball
• More basketball news at www.nz.basketball and Basketball New Zealand’s social media channels: @BasketballNZ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.