GAME RECAP: Tall Ferns vs Australia, FIBA Women’s Asia Cup 2023 Bronze Medal Game

The Tall Ferns have finished fourth overall in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup, following a 59-81 loss to hosts Australia in the tournament’s bronze medal game.

Penina Davidson top-scored for the Kiwis with 19 points & 11 rebounds, while Charlisse Leger-Walker had 12 points despite battling foul trouble. Esra McGoldrick and Tera Reed added 7 apiece, with captain Stella Beck scoring 4 points along with 5 rebounds. New Zealand were stymied by the Aussie defence, shooting 39% from the field overall (22/56) and hitting a tournament-low 3 makes from outside the arc on just 15% shooting.

For Australia, Alice Kunek led the Opals with 19 points and 5 rebounds, one of five players reaching double figures along with Tess Madgen (14), Darcee Garbin (13) Anneli Maley (11) and Keely Froling’s 10. The Opals as a team capitalised off of the Kiwi’s 19 turnovers, converting them into 17 points while also holding 9-0 fast break advantage.

Playing in front of an enthusiastic Aussie crowd, the Kiwis were severely hampered by their guard availability in this game; Tayla Dalton ruled out pre-game and starter Tahlia Tupaea reaggravating a shoulder injury just a few minutes into the game, which forced Krystal Leger-Walker and Grace Hunter into extended minutes.

Despite being down two key players, the first quarter saw both teams evenly matched in the first five minutes, with several lead changes and the scores tied up at 9-all midway through the period. But the Opals went on a 9-0 run soon after, eventually pushing the lead up to 22-14 by the quarter time buzzer. Despite shooting 55% in the first – led by Davidson’s 4 points, despite seeing constant double teams in the paint – the Kiwis were hampered by 7 turnovers as a result of the Aussie pressure.

The Opals embarked on a 10-3 run in the second, until a triple from Reed reduced deficit to 10 – the Kiwis first made outside shot of the game. While New Zealand shot poorly in the quarter, going 5-18, they stayed within distance thanks to their superior rebounding (22 vs 14) which resulted in a 28–39 halftime deficit.

The Tall Ferns began the second half well – Walker blocking an Opals three point attempt to force the shot clock violation, and Charlisse hitting back-to-back shots –  but it was Charlisse’s fourth foul midway through the period that forced the Kiwi’s leading scorer to the bench for an extended period of time. The Opals went on a blistering 11-2 run shortly afterwards, extending the lead to 60-41 with a minute left.

The final period saw the Tall Ferns unable to reduce the deficit, scoring 14 points while the Opals netted 18 – the final score of 59-81 showing the Tall Ferns as a team that hung tough in the first half but were likely too fatigued (and too short-handed) to mount a second-half comeback against a strong Aussie side.

Tall Ferns head coach, Guy Molloy says that the Tall Ferns – and all of New Zealand – can look back with pride on the Kiwi’s showing at this prestigious tournament.

“I’m just really pleased for our programme and for the nation for the fact that we’ve even made it to this point – more than anything else it’s a celebration and something we’ve worked very hard to get,” says Molloy.

“No matter the results we’ve had playing in these semi-finals, playing the top four teams in [Asia] has been a great experience and I’m very proud of the team and very happy to be here.”

This brings the Tall Ferns FIBA Women’s Asia Cup 2023 run to an end, finishing as the 4th-best team in the tournament – their best-ever showing – and setting them up for an Olympics Qualifying event in February 2023. 12 Olympics spots will be up for grabs for the top 16 teams attending, which will include New Zealand, China, Japan and Australia as top-four finishers at this Asia Cup.



New Zealand 59 – Davidson 19 PTS & 11 REB | C. Leger-Walker 12 PTS | Reed 7 PTS & 7 REB | McGoldrick 7 PTS & 5 REB | Hunter 6 PTS | Beck 4 PTS & 5 REB | K. Leger-Walker 2 PTS & 4 AST | Tamilo 2 PTS

Australia 81 – Kunek 19 PTS & 5 REB | Madgen 14PTS & 5 AST | Garbin 13 PTS | Maley 11 PTS & 11 REB | Froling 10 PTS & 7 REB

Quarter scores: 14-22, 28-39, 45-63, 59-81.

Full box score: