Less than 24 hours after their defeat to China, the Tall Ferns return to Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre today to play their final group phase game – taking on Lebanon in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup.
This game has major implications for New Zealand. If they win, they move onto a qualification round against the third-placed team in Pool B. Win that, and they’re through for the Semi-final round for the first time in four appearances at the Asia Cup. But the prize is much greater than a trip to the semis; a top four finish gives the Tall Ferns the opportunity to proceed through the Olympic Qualification pathway, where New Zealand can play in a future qualifying event to secure a spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics – their first Olympics appearance since Beijing in 2008.
New Zealand come into this game with two key players being rested versus China, a prudent approach given Penina Davidson had played all 40 minutes against Korea and Tahlia Tupaea had injured her shoulder in the same game. Both players will return for Lebanon, with the rotation expected to heavily feature the Leger-Walker sisters, Tera Reed, Stella Beck and Tayla Dalton.
Given the opportunity to play against China, some of the younger players impressed – so expect to see Esra McGoldrick (9 points & 6 rebounds), Grace Hunter (10 points on 3/5 shooting from downtown) and Ritorya Tamilo (2 big blocks) get minutes as well – Tamilo, McGoldrick and Josie Trousdell all showing they can hold down the fort when Davidson needs a rest, which is vital.
Lebanon may be winless in this Asia Cup after heavy losses to China and Korea, but the Tall Ferns will take them extremely seriously for this game. They are led by Trinity Baptiste – who many Tauihi fans will be familiar with after her import stint with the Mainland Pouākai last season – and her 12ppg & 8rpg. Two other players to watch are point guard Rebecca Akl (9.5ppg) and veteran forward Aida Bakhos (8ppg, 5rpg).
The Tall Ferns play Lebanon from 1pm NZT on Wednesday 28 June, in their third game of the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup 2023. Watch this game live – and free – on Spark Sport, or follow the game here.
FIBA Women’s Asia Cup 2023 – Tall Ferns Schedule:
Mon 26 June – Tall Ferns vs Korea, 1pm NZT (won 66-64)
Tue 27 June – Tall Ferns vs China, 7pm NZT (lost 46-80)
Wed 28 June – Tall Ferns vs Lebanon, 1pm NZT
Tall Ferns Squad – FIBA Women’s Asia Cup 2023:
Stella Beck, 58 caps
Tayla Dalton, 7 caps
Penina Davidson, 58 caps
Grace Hunter, 6 caps
Charlisse Leger-Walker, 38 caps
Krystal Leger-Walker, 25 caps
Parris Mason, 1 caps
Esra McGoldrick, 8 caps
Tera Reed, 13 caps
Ritorya Tamilo, 5 caps
Josie Trousdell, 37 caps
Tahlia Tupaea, 1 cap