The Aon New Zealand Under 17 Boys have officially qualified for the FIBA Under 17 World Cup in Argentina this June, following an impressive 73-69 victory over Iran.
The win also means New Zealand advances to the semi-finals at the FIBA Asian Championship and will play either Australia or Korea tomorrow.
New Zealand’s Tom Cowie hit a pair of 3-pointers to give his team the early lead out of the gate, but Iran kept their composure and continued to pound the ball inside. Iran had a notable size advantage in the frontcourt and they were able to capitalize on that for most of the game.
There was little separation between the two sides at halftime, Iran with a slight 36-33 edge.
New Zealand found their footing offensively in the third quarter and managed to capture the lead. Iran, however, refused to go away. They fought back and captured a slim one-point lead with just over three minutes remaining in the game. It was a back-and-forth affair down the stretch with both teams trading buckets numerous times. New Zealand were able to knuckle down and make some big plays in the final minute of the game to seal the win.
Mitchell Dance turned in 22 points and 10 rebounds for New Zealand, shooting 9-of-17 from the field. Tom Cowie filled up the stat sheet for a second consecutive game, dropping 17 points, two rebounds, five assists, one steal and two blocks on 5-of-11 shooting from the field (3-of-4 from three). Kainoa Lepou (12 points) and Jake McKinlay (14 points) were also valued contributors. New Zealand held Iran to 32.9 per cent shooting from the floor.
New Zealand head coach Dave Bublitz had high praise for his team’s gritty win.
“The boys showed true grit in the closing moments. Their ability to stay locked into the scouting report and reduce the number of shots their primary scorer took was the key. Making free throws late also cemented the wives tail about the importance of free throw,” said Bublitz.
New Zealand now hold a record of 3-1 at the FIBA Asian Championship in Foshan.
· The team roster: http://nz.basketball/News/aon-nz-u17-boys-named-as-fiba-draws-asia-cup
· See FIBA’s tournament website here: http://www.fiba.basketball/asia/u16/2017/news/draw-results-in-for-fiba-u16-asian-championship
· More basketball news at www.nz.basketball and Basketball New Zealand’s social media channels: @BasketballNZ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.