The Tall Ferns have fallen 46-80 to world number two-ranked China tonight, after their opponents outscored New Zealand 32-7 in a pivotal third quarter to remain unbeaten in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup.
Grace Hunter led the Kiwis with 10 points – all in the fourth quarter – on 3/5 shooting from outside, while Stella Beck added 9 points & 7 rebounds (5 offensive) and Esra McGoldrick added 9 & 6 of her own. Tayla Dalton had 6 points and Charlisse Leger-Walker added 5, as New Zealand elected to rest their key starters and utilise their bench for the majority of the contest.
For China, imposing centre Xu Han tallied 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Meng Li and Zhenqi Pan each scored 10. Yuan Li added 7 points and 7 rebounds and Yu Tang had 8.
Tall Ferns Head coach Guy Molloy made a trio of changes to his starting line-up, electing to rest leading scorer Penina Davidson and Tahlia Tupaea for the entire game in favour of Josie Trousdell (nee Stockill) and Esra McGoldrick – while also promoting Tayla Dalton off the bench.
The game began with a highlight defensive play from the Kiwis; McGoldrick with an impressive block on 6’9” centre Han on China’s first offensive possession. With New Zealand keeping it close at 7-9 on a layup from Dalton, China embarked on a 5-0 run; back-to-back triples from Beck and McGoldrick keeping the score close as China took a 18-13 lead into the break.
A floater from Charlisse helped reduce the deficit to 2 in the second, but it was the subbing in of Ritorya Tamilo midway through the period that caused excitement for the fans – the 17-year-old producing a pair of spectacular blocks in a span of less than a minute, including a clean swat of a Chinese triple. But China’s defense was just as unrelenting, holding the Kiwis to seven points in the quarter on 25% shooting as China build up the score to 33-20 at the half; forcing the Tall Ferns into 6 turnovers. A bright spot of the quarter was seeing Parris Mason and Grace Hunter take to the court for the first time.
The third quarter saw the floodgates well and truly open for China. After both teams traded triples to open the period, China let loose with an impressive 19-0 run; holding New Zealand scoreless for almost 7 minutes until a short hook by Beck with 50 seconds left. China’s defensive was on full display, forcing turnovers and again holding the Tall Ferns to just 7 points in the period – while scoring 32 points of their own.
With China resting their starters in the final period, the game swung back into New Zealand’s favour as Walker hit a trio from outside the arc and Tamilo scored her first points of the tournament thanks to a sweet pass under the hoop. Despite the 46-80 loss, the Kiwis could take some small consolation in outscoring China in 19-15 in the final period while primarily using its bench.
Molloy was philosophical about the loss following the game.
“This game is like a series for us because we play Lebanon at 11am (Sydney time) tomorrow morning and we need to rest people, so I’m very proud of our team as it was a huge challenge to pay the no. 2 team in the world – to compete and keep ourselves in the game without it becoming a blowout. And also to blood a lot of our future young Tall Ferns players, so that was exciting as well,” says Molloy.
Captain Stella Beck agreed with her coaches’ comments.
“I want to put emphasis on just how awesome our young players did in this game; to come out an play against a fully professional side with some amazing players – they played with heaps of confidence so credit to them.”
The Tall Ferns play their third and final group phase game tomorrow, taking on Lebanon at 1pm NZT on Wednesday 28 June in a game that will decide whether New Zealand progresses to the semi-final round. Watch this game live – and free – on Spark Sport, or follow the game online here.
New Zealand 46 – Walker 10 PTS | Beck 9 PTS & 7 REB | McGoldrick 9 PTS & 6 REB | Dalton 6 PTS | C. Leger-Walker 5 PTS | K. Leger-Walker 3 PTS | Reed 2 PTS | Tamilo 2 PTS
China 80 – Han 17 PTS & 13 REB | Pan 10 PTS | M. li 10 PTS | Tang 8 PTS | Y. Li 7 PTS & 7 REB | Wang 7 PTS | Yang 7 PTS
Quarter scores: 13-18, 20-33, 27-65, 46-80.
Full box score: http://bbnz.link/88omj