The Tall Blacks won an historic 108-98 victory over Australia in Brisbane on Thursday night, starting their 2021 Asia Cup qualifying campaign in perfect fashion in front of 3,500 largely Australian fans at Nissan Arena, in the first win over the Boomers since 2009.
The win was built on the up tempo game established at the 2019 World Cup, as the Mika Vukona led Tall Blacks harassed the Australians at every opportunity, with game high scorers Reuben Te Rangi and Shea Ili (21 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists each) enjoying great support from Rob Loe (19) and Jordan Ngatai (19) on offence, while the entire team gave their all to the jersey on defence.
It was a huge result for Pero Cameron in his first game in charge of the side, and one he was immensely proud of.
“That is Tall Blacks basketball, the entire group doing all they could for each other and for the jersey, not just tonight, but over the past three days as we have done all we can to get ready for this game. The way the players and the coaches and support staff have overcome every obstacle this week is what really fills me with pride. The win is great, of course, but this entire week has been special given the disruptions in the buildup.”
When quizzed by the local media post game about the form of Reuben Te Rangi on the back of an NBL season where his minutes were limited for the Brisbane Bullets, Cameron was hardly surprised.
“Reuben has been doing that in the black singlet for a few years now, that is nothing new for us. But he is not alone, all of these players grow a little when they come into Tall Blacks, the commitment of this entire group is without question and what makes this team so special.”
In typical Tall Black fashion there was no dwelling on who was missing, rather it was a focus on who was in the gym and the roles they could all play. Dion Prewster does not have an ANBL contract but made some huge plays in key moments for his 10 points and 4 rebounds. Jordan Ngatai led the team like he led Tu Kaha, his 19 points including three big triples. Rob Loe was a massive influence, stretching the floor with his ability to nail the three-ball but also showing great fight under the basket with 9 huge boards.
The early moments showed not a hint of what was to follow, with the home side jumping out to a 9-0 lead as the Tall Blacks created good looks without making a basket, but they stayed calm and eased their way back into the game, trailing 31-27 at the end of the first quarter.
The second saw the Tall Blacks lock down the Aussies, winning it 25-15 as Te Rangi got hot on offence and the smothering defence proved too much for the green and gold as they resorted to fouls and desperate lunges at flying Tall Blacks.
From that moment the win never seemed in doubt, despite a late flurry from the Aussies, a Loe triple and Shea Ili control at the point shutting down any hopes of a miraculous comeback and a rare and famous win was earned on Aussie soil.
Te Rangi was superb on a night that saw him return to the national team after cruelly missing the World Cup with a knee injury last year.
“That was pretty special, I think for a lot of us that is our first time beating Australia, anytime you can do that we will take that opportunity. The way the boys came out and played and hustled with that short turnaround, three days training, that was a special night and I won’t forget this one.
“It has been a long road from my knee surgery coming to this point, it always feels good when you play well, but credit to the boys for leaving it all out there on the floor.”
Te Rangi had some special praise for his captain who also missed the World Cup with a knee injury.
“In meetings he is the first one to talk, the first one to pump us up and on the floor he is on those boards, he is that leader on and off the floor, we love Mika, we all love Mika.”
The Tall Blacks now board two flights in a 21 hour journey to Guam, where they will play the host nation in the second of two games in this first 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifying windows, looking to make it the perfect two from two start to the campaign.
Tall Blacks 108 (Te Rangi 21, Ili 21, Loe 19, Ngatai 19, Kenny 10, Prewster 10)
Australia 98 (Blanchfield 17, Sobey 13, Gliddon 13)
- For the game BOX SCORE, CLICK HERE
FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers | Round One
- 20 February. Tall Blacks v Australia, Nissan Stadium, Brisbane, Australia
- 23 February. Tall Blacks v Guam, Calvo Fieldhouse, Yigo Village, Guam.
- Official FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers Website: http://www.fiba.basketball/asiacup/2021/qualifiers
- Tall Blacks webpage: https://nz.basketball/national-teams/tall-blacks/
- Follow the Tall Blacks’ social media channels: @TallBlacks Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Hashtags: #TuKaha #TallBlacks
Maori Television will broadcast both games live:
- 9:30pm V Australia, 20 February 20
- 7:50pm V Guam, 23 February