The Sky Sport Tall Ferns have fallen one step short of their objective at the FIBA Asia Cup after going down to Australia 72-61 in the qualification semi-final in Amman, Jordan this morning.
Little separated the two rivals for much of the contest, but the class of WNBA guard Sami Whitcomb and some hot shooting at the back end of the second-half quarters from the rest of the Opals ensured they progressed.
The loss means the Kiwis will square off with Chinese-Taipei for fifth place on Sunday morning, which coincidentally is the same opponent they played for the same position at the last Asia Cup in 2019.
As alluded to earlier, the difference in the end was a slight uptick in shooting percentages from the green and gold, although nothing was certain until the final buzzer as Guy Molloy’s side unsurprisingly toiled away until the bitter end.
There was only five points between them with just over three minutes to play, but just as they’d done in crucial stages for most of the game, the Australians stunted the Tall Ferns’ momentum by cashing in from deep.
It was 20 apiece come the end of the first quarter though thanks to some fluid jumpers from the Leger-Walker sisters, who both finished with double-digit scoring totals. Their early makes made sure Australia kept one eye over their shoulder after retaking the lead midway through the spell.
Whitcomb began to show her WNBA credentials as period number two ran on, going from six to 16 before the oranges courtesy of another pair of triples and baskets in close.
The Leger-Walker tandem also continued to find ways of putting the ball in the hoop while also creating opportunities for others in black. Chevannah Paalvast was the last of their teammates to chime in with a three as they went into the main break only down two possessions.
Australia tacked on another three to their buffer heading into the final stages following a trio of triples from Keely Jane Froling, Lauren Marie Scherf and Alex Jane Sharpe, but some good looks inside for Mary Goulding and Penina Davidson somewhat negated the flurry of treys to set up a tense last 10 minutes.
The Tall Ferns should be proud of their effort after a two-year hiatus from the international scene, and will no doubt get as much rest as they can to finish the tournament on a high note in their last fixture on Sunday.
Tall Ferns (72) lost to Australia (61) – BOXSCORE
Tall Ferns: Charlisse Leger-Walker (17pts & 4ast), Krystal Leger-Walker (12pts & 6ast), Mary Goulding (7pts & 4rbs).
Australia: Sami Whitcomb (29pts & 7rbs), Lauren Marie Scherf (13pts & 6rbs), Darcee Garbin (10pts & 4rbs).