The Tall Ferns, powered by double doubles from Kalani Purcell (22 points and 13 rebounds) and Jillian Harmon (15 points, 15 rebounds), recovered from a 17 points first half deficit to beat Chinese Taipei 59-53 in the FIBA Asia Cup in Bangalore on Tuesday.
The win means that the Tall Ferns will finish second in Pool A with a 2-1 record, and avoid a quarter-final match up with defending champions Japan or Australia.
Tall Ferns head coach Kennedy Kereama credited the Tall Ferns defensive effort as the key to the victory. “We showed real mental toughness today – to hold them to 18 points in the second half is where we want to be. Overall we did a really good job.”
New Zealand only regained the lead (led briefly 5-4 in opening minutes) early in the fourth quarter and although they relinquished it briefly midway through the fourth stanza Purcell and Harmon continued to dominate proceedings.
Chevannah Paalvast became just the third New Zealand scorer in in the fourth quarter to keep her team ahead 48-46 with 3 minutes to play. Toni Edmondson (2 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks) only managed two points on the night but a defensive block and two critical offensive rebounds allowed Natalie Taylor to push the Tall Ferns ahead 52-48 with 1:30 to play.
Chinese Taipei narrowed to within two points in the final minute but Taylor and Micaela Cocks held their nerve at the free throw line to secure a deserved victory.
Earlier a Cocks three opened the New Zealand scoring but the Tall Ferns were then outscored 17-2 and trailed 21-7 at quarter time – 8 turnovers not helping the cause.
Edmondson and Cocks scored consecutive baskets but the Taipei lead grew to 30-13 with 4 minutes left in the half.
Georgia Agnew came off the bench and provided a spark to initiate a 9-0 New Zealand run. Josie Stockill scored from a baseline jump shot and Cocks converted a reverse layup but the Kiwis trailed 35-24 at the break.
Harmon became the first player into double figures with a pair of baskets and Cocks added a jump shot – 35-30 and the momentum had shifted dramatically.
Amazingly Taipei were kept to just three points in the period as the Kiwis locked in on defence – 38-34 at three-quarter time.
Two baseline jumpers from Purcell tied the scores before a left handed hook shot from Harmon took the Tall Ferns ahead 40-38 and after that they would not be denied.
Wednesday is a rest day ahead of quarter-finals action on Thursday. The time of the game and opposition are yet to be confirmed.
Tall Ferns 59 – Purcell 22/13, Harmon 15/15, Cocks 12, Taylor 4, Edmondson 2, Paalvast 2, Stockill 2
Chinese Taipei 53 – H Bao 12, F Huang 7, Y Wu 7