Charlisse Leger-Walker is the youngest player ever to wear a Tall Ferns singlet but on the on the evidence of her showing in the 80-49 defeat of Jamaica, in Cairns on today, she is destined for a long international future. The 16 year-old guard led all scorers with 18 points and also added 6 points, 4 assists, a steal and a block.
The second win in three days for the Tall Ferns almost certainly secures them a top two spot in Pool B of the Commonwealth Games Basketball Tournament and a place in the Qualifying Finals (the equivalent of a quarter final) in Townsville on Tuesday.
The victory was built on relentless defence and an improved three-point (32%) and free-throw (80%) shooting performance. Twenty turnovers were more than Head Coach Guy Molloy would have liked but forcing Jamaica into 32 turnovers was the product of the energetic defence he is demanding.
“We played great defence and held them to 25 points at the half and about 40 at three-quarter time so they are scores we can clearly beat. At the same time coming out and shooting 80 points is good. We turned the ball over too much and there were some wide open shots we missed which showed there is room for improvement,” said Molloy.
A Natalie Taylor (9 points) three opened the Tall Fern’s scoring and five points from Jordan Hunter helped the Kiwis forge a narrow 17-16 first quarter lead.
A reverse lay-up from Leger-Walker opened the New Zealand account in the second term and a triple from the young tyro took the advantage to 24-16 forcing a Jamaican timeout.
Chevannah Paalvast connected from long range, as did Leger-Walker on two occasions, the Ferns handily placed at the interval leading 41-25. Leger-Walker compiled a perfect first half shooting performance as she led all scorers at the break with 15 points (5/5FG, 3/3 3PG, 2/2FT).
“It was nice, I didn’t even realise at the time it was going so well. It is so much fun playing with the older girls and the style of play is so good,” enthused Leger-Walker.
A Taylor triple and a put back from sister Kalani Purcell stretched the Ferns lead beyond twenty points. Five straight points from Cantabrian guard Erin Rooney added to Jamaica’s woes, New Zealand ahead 60-39 at three-quarter time.
Paalvast (10 points on 4 from 5 shooting) became the second player into double figures and Hunter (11 points) the third but it was a balanced scoring effort that secured a second straight New Zealand win and confidence growing ahead of the final pool game against India tomorrow.
“We have a new style which everyone is buying into which is working for us.
We still have a long way to go and we can get a lot better than we are presently and that in itself is exciting,” said experienced guard Natalie Taylor.
Molloy is wanting more of the same. “We will come out and attack the game hard against India. We have training tomorrow before the game which is nice as there are some fundamental things we need to try and correct,” conclude Molloy.
NZ 80 – Leger-Walker 18/6r, Hunter 11, Paalvast 10, Rooney 9, Taylor 9, Farnham 6, Cocks 4/6a, Bygate 4, Purcell 4, Stockill 3, Jillings 2
Jamaica 49 – George 12, Smith 8
The Tall Ferns need to finish in one of the top two spots in Pool B in order to progress to the Qualifying Final (the equivalent of a quarter final) against one of the bottom two placed teams in Pool A. That game is scheduled to be played in Townsville next Tuesday.
Broadcast by Television New Zealand https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/commonwealth-games/schedule
Tall Ferns Pool Games (tip-off times all NZT)
• V Malaysia, 5 April, 11.00pm, WON 86-44
• V Jamaica, 7 April, 1.30pm, WON 80-49
• V India, 8 April 7.30pm
• The team roster: http://nz.basketball/News/tall-ferns-named-for-commonwealth-games
• 2018 Commonwealth Games Basketball Schedule: https://www.gc2018.com/sport/basketball
• More basketball news at www.nz.basketball and Basketball New Zealand’s social media channels: @BasketballNZ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.