The Tall Ferns wrapped up pool play at the Commonwealth Games Basketball Tournament with a 90-55 win against India in Cairns on Sunday evening.
The second half of the third straight win by the Tall Ferns was played in front of HRH Prince Charles who was introduced to both teams at the conclusion of the game.
The victory ensured the Tall Ferns finished top of Pool B earning them a quarter-final match up against either England or Mozambique in Townsville on Tuesday. Micaela Cocks led all scorers with 21 points (9/11FG) and she was ably supported by Toni Farnworth (12 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists), Chevannah Paalvast (10 points) and Charlisse Leger Walker (10 points). Kalani Purcell chipped in with 8 points, 4 rebounds and a game high 4 steals.
Purcell opened the scoring against the winless Indians who made a spirited reply forging a 10-9 lead of their own. The Kiwis responded with a 14-0 run, the highlight a dish from Farnworth for a Cocks layup. Cocks had 11 points in the quarter as the Ferns sped to a 31-12 lead.
Cocks improved her tally with a trio of baskets but a couple of turnovers allowed India some respite from the onslaught by the Kiwis. Paalvast had the last say of the first half scoring with a baseline triple from a Purcell assist – NZ ahead 54-22 at the interval.
The arrival of Prince Charles inspired some sharp shooting from Jordan Hunter, Natalie Taylor and Leger-Walker who each landed triples in quick succession to push the advantage out to 68-30. India then reeled off an 8-0 run before Jess Bygate and Farnworth landed consecutive jump shots – NZ 73-41 to the good at three-quarter time.
The Tall Ferns performance, perhaps with half a mind on tougher assignments ahead, tailed off in the final quarter but with three wins under their collective belts they head to Townsville in good spirits and with confidence soaring.
“As a team we are going into each game with things we need to work on and we want to get better with each outing. We know there are harder teams that we have to face and the game in Townsville is do or die. We are feeling confident and really enjoying the style of play we are playing,” enthused Micaela Cocks.
Cocks, a three-time Australian WNBL Championship winner with Townsville Fire is delighted the team will get the opportunity to play in her adopted city. “It is great that we are heading to Townsville, the venue is actually on the same street that I live on. I think we will get a good crowd with lots of familiar faces supporting us.”
Tall Ferns Head Coach Guy Molloy was more than content with his team’s showing.
“I’m full of praise for the team as entering the game we couldn’t be dislodged from top place in the pool so it becomes a dead rubber and the psychological reaction to that is normally a poor one. My experience is an ugly game tends to result. However our first half attitude and commitment to the game was outstanding and they played like it was a game that really counted. In the second half we tried some different things but overall it was a good day for us.”
Playing in front of royalty was certainly a unique experience. “That doesn’t happen every day does it? said Molloy.
“Prince Charles was asking who our main rivals were and said he hoped we get a crack at the Australians. He said he enjoyed the game,” added Molloy.
NZ 90 – Cocks 21/6r, Farnworth 12/7r/5a/4st, Paalvast 10, Leger-Walker 10 Taylor 9, Bygate 8, Purcell 8/4r/4st, Hunter 7, Rooney 2, Stockill 2/5r, Jillings 1
India 55 – Kumari 14, Limaye 11
The Tall Ferns, having secured top spot in Pool B, progress to the Qualifying Final (the equivalent of a quarter final) against one of the bottom two placed teams in Pool A. That game will be played in Townsville on Tuesday. The draw will not be finalized until the Pool A games are completed on Monday.
TV SCHEDULE: 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, WON 90-55