The MBO Tall Blacks moved a step closer to qualifying for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China tonight. In front of a packed Horncastle Arena, they defeated Jordan 95-69.
The Tall Blacks eighth straight win means that a victory against Syria in Wellington this Sunday will guarantee the Tall Blacks a place at next year’s showpiece event in China.
It was a complete team performance with all twelve New Zealand players featuring on the scoresheet led by Tom Abercrombie (18 points), Jordan Ngatai (17 points), Reuben Te Rangi (11 points) and Tom Vodanovich (11 points).
Shea Ili delayed his arrival at camp this week following the birth of his daughter on Monday. His short time in camp did not hinder as he went close to a double-double with 8 points and 9 assists. Captain Mika Vukona led the rebounding count with 7 boards.
Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare was naturally delighted with the result.
“I’m really proud of this group, the way they play and play for each other, really getting after it terms of our intensity and physicality, particularly at the defensive end.
“Several guys were able to step up without several of our regular players, it was really pleasing to see and really pleasing to see we had production across the board.”
Henare also had a special word for his two debutants Tom Vodanovich and Kruz Perrott-Hunt.
“I thought they both came out and played with a nice balance of poise and confidence. They showed that, although there is always room for improvement, they are more than comfortable out on the floor on the international stage.”
Tom Abercrombie agreed with Henare’s assessment.
“I was excited for them, it was great they got an opportunity out there. Kruz probably wasn’t expecting to get out there that early, but as Pauli said they both played with a lot of confidence which you want to see out of them. They weren’t shy of the moment and took their opportunities.
“These qualifying windows have tested our depth, but I think we have ticked that box that we do have guys ready to step up when needed and get the job done.
“The physicality and intensity was there for all four quarters tonight. It’s always a challenge when you get a bit of a lead to play the right way and keep the foot down, and I thought we did a good job of that. No matter who came in they kept it rolling,” Abercrombie added.
Henare admitted the growing depth that the Tall Blacks have creates some selection issues.
“The hardest selection will be when it gets around to hopefully World Cup time. With these FIBA windows we are limited in terms of availability of players especially with the US based players unavailable and others dealing with injury issues.
“Hopefully we can get this qualification wrapped up, and once we get to that stage when we have to choose 12 players to represent New Zealand, it’s going to be a very difficult selection process. Even at every window we have to select a long list of twenty four players and even selecting that one right now is difficult.”
Despite only being one win away from World Cup qualification Henare is not getting ahead of himself.
“Our record suggests we are doing well, but I think the bigger picture is the way that we have been able to integrate different players and younger players, and keep our experienced players like Tom (Abercrombie) and Mika (Vukona) involved. Combining that mixture has enabled us to maintain momentum and keep consistency in the way we are competing.
“We enjoy this one, we celebrate this one, but then get ready for another big game on Sunday. All these guys have put so much physical, mental and emotional energy and effort into getting us to this place right now, and the message to the group is that we are not quite there yet. Let’s keep pushing and striving for greatness in terms of how we want to play. Sunday is just another step in that direction,” added Henare.
The game began with Rob Loe scoring the first basket of the game, his four points and six from Reuben Te Rangi helping the hosts to a 29-17 first quarter lead.
Debutants Kruz Perrott-Hunt and Tom Vodanovich were introduced in the second quarter and both registered points as New Zealand stretched their advantage to 51-30.
Thirteen points, including three triples, from Tom Abercrombie in the third stanza kept the Kiwis in control – ahead 73-46 at the last break. Thereafter coach Henare enjoyed the luxury of giving his less experienced team members extended court time during the closing minutes.
MBO Tall Blacks 95 – T Abercrombie 18, J Ngatai 17, R Te Rangi 11, T Vodanovich 11, S Ili 8, A Pledger 7, R Loe 6, J Kenny 5, E Rusbatch 5, K Perrott-Hunt 3, M Vukona 2, T Smith-Milner 2
Jordan 69 – Y Abu Wazaneh 13, A Alhamarsheh 12
Tickets for the Tall Blacks v Syria game in Wellington can be purchased at www.Ticketmaster.co.nz.
MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND TWO
Date | Opponents | Home/Away
• AWAY: 13 Sep 2018 vs Syria, Nouhad Nawfal Stadium, Zouk Mikael, Lebanon Tall Blacks won 107-66
• HOME: 17 Sep 2018 vs Lebanon, Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. Tall Blacks won 63-60
• HOME: 29 Nov 2018 vs Jordan, Horncastle Arena, Christchurch. Tall Blacks won 95-69
• HOME: 2 Dec 2018 vs Syria, TSB Bank Arena, Wellington
• AWAY: 21 or 22 Feb 2019 vs Lebanon in Lebanon
• AWAY: 24 or 25 Feb 2019 vs Jordan in Jordan
MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND ONE
Date | Opponents | Home/Away
• 23 Nov 2017 vs Korea at TSB Bank Arena, Wellington. Tall Blacks lost 80-86
• 26 Nov 2017 vs Hong Kong at Southourn Stadium, Hong Kong. Tall Blacks won 133-74
• 23 Feb 2018 vs China at Dongguan Basketball Centre, China. Tall Blacks won 82-73
• 26 Feb 2018 vs Korea at Jamsil Gymnasium, Seoul, South Korea. Tall Blacks won 93-84
• 28 Jun 2018 vs Hong Kong at Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. Tall Blacks won 124-65
• 1 Jul 2018 vs China vs Spark Arena, Auckland. Tall Blacks won 67-57