In their third and final game against World #8 ranked Serbia, The Sky Sport Tall Ferns have fallen 50-75 overnight in Belgrade. Serbia raced out to a 39-16 half-time lead before the Kiwis were able to steady the ship, winning the final quarter 18-15 as their bench players earned extended minutes.
Charlisse Leger-Walker top-scored with 20 points (3/7 from outside the arc) and 5 rebounds, while Tera Reed – who moved into the starting line-up following her performance the previous night – generated 5 points, 9 rebounds and a pair of steals. Krystal Leger-Walker added 7 points and Tayla Dalton was again a presence off the bench with 5 points and 4 rebounds; Penina Davidson held to 3 points on 1/5 shooting but picking up 5 rebounds in limited minutes.
For Serbia, Ivana Rana led with her 10 points, while Sasa Cadji, Kristina Topuzovic and Masa Jankovic registered 9 each; Olympian Dragana Stankovic picking up 4 points, 4 steals and 9 rebounds.
Serbia again relied on a strong inside presence, scoring over half their points in the paint (40) and shooting 56% from inside the arc. They were also solid defensively – generating 19 steals and forcing the Kiwis into 32 turnovers on the night – and crisp with their offense, as evidenced by their 24 assists to New Zealand’s 12.
Although the Tall Ferns struggled with their outside shot (5/21 from downtown) overall, they again won the rebounding battle 34-30 and saw an improved effort from the charity stripe – making 13/19 free throws at a 68% clip. With the focus of these friendly games being on player development ahead of the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup, the games also provided a rare opportunity for younger athletes to experience international competition at a high level. Players such as Ritorya Tamilo and Lilly Taulelei – both 17 years old – can only improve in the senior national team setting, which bodes well for the future.
The Tall Ferns now head to Istanbul for a pair of friendly games against Poland (9 June) and Turkey (10 June).
New Zealand 50 – C. Leger-Walker 20 PTS & 5 REB | K. Leger-Walker 7 PTS | Reed 5 PTS & 9 REB | Dalton 5 PTS & 4 REB | Davidson 3 PTS & 5 REB | Tamilo 3 PTS | Kelman-Poto 2 PTS & 5 REB | Taulelei 2 PTS | Beck 2 PTS | Taia 1 PTS
Serbia 75 – Rana 10 PTS | Cadji 9 PTS | Topuzovic 9 PTS & 5 REB | Jankovic 9 PTS & 6 REB | Stankovic 4 PTS & 4 STL & 9 REB
Quarter scores: 16-6, 39-16, 60-32, 75-50.