The Auckland NZL team have been eliminated from the FIBA 3X3 World Tour Manila Masters today, after finishing with a 1-1 record in the qualifying round of the Philippines-based competition.
In the first qualifying game, Auckland NZL took on Melbourne (AUS); their imposing squad featuring three 6’8” Aussie players. This size would be a dominant factor against the smaller Kiwi team, with Melbourne using an impressive inside/outside game – led by Andrew Steel with 9 points (including 4 two pointers) and solid support from Jess Wagstaff with 5 points. Chris McIntosh led Auckland with 5 points, while Zach Easthope and Ben Castle chipped in two points apiece.
Melbourne would lead the game from start to finish to earn a 21-10 victory. Easthope remarked on what was a ‘physical’ game afterwards.
“It was a tough match-up, Melbourne is a good team and they’ve been playing together quite a while – they have lots of ANBL experience,” says Easthope. “They came out very physical and it took us a while to adjust to that, we managed to get going in the middle of the game but it was too late to pull out the win.”
Auckland NZL’s second game saw the Kiwis face Yokohama (JPN), who had earlier lost to the same Melbourne side. Things would go New Zealand’s way in this one, with Easthope able to bully the smaller Yokohama players under the basket to the tune of 8 points. Castle would earn 6 points and McIntosh 4 – both players registering a pair of two pointers – and Sam with 3 points, including a fancy reverse layup late in the game.
Auckland NZL would comfortably win this one 21-10 victory, with the outcome never in doubt.
Easthope says that the team was able to use the same disadvantage they had in the first game – size – into an advantage in the second game.
“We knew we were bigger than [our opponents] this time and we’re a bit more physical, so we used our screen actions to get players open and used our size and strength to our advantage.”
McIntosh added that he thought Yokohama was a much better ‘match’ against his team than Melbourne was.
“We were able to get more into our flow in this game, and the more we play together the more we get used to each other – so it was good to get a win.”
Despite this win, it will be Melbourne moving out of the qualifying round and into the World Tour proper, after securing victories in each of their qualifying games. The Auckland NZL team will now return home; with McIntosh, Easthope and Aruwa waiting to hear if they’ve earnt a spot in the 3X3 Tall Blacks squad for the 3X3 World Cup and Commonwealth Games.
GAME 1: Auckland (NZL) v Melbourne (AUS)
Melbourne (21): Andrew Steel 9 PTS | Jesse Wagstaff 5 PTS | Greg Hire 4 PTS | Cooper Wilks 3 PTS
Auckland NZL (10): Chris McIntosh 5 PTS | Ben Castle 2 PTS | Zach Easthope 2 PTS | Sam Aruwa 1 PT
GAME 2: Auckland (NZL) v Yokohama (JPN)
Auckland NZL (21): Chris McIntosh 4 PTS | Ben Castle 6 PTS | Zach Easthope 8 PTS | Sam Aruwa 3 PT
Yokohama (10): Lazar Popovic 6 PTS | Alexis Minatoya 4 PTS