3x3 teams look to June as Asia Cup slides from reach

3x3 teams look to June as Asia Cup slides from reach
The New Zealand 3x3 teams have exited the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup in Changsha, China. They will leave with the experience that was sought, particularly the development squad representing the women’s side.

Instead of sending the women’s side that won the 2018 gold medal, or the team that qualified for the FIBA 3x3 World Cup last month, a young inexperience squad was sent to defend the title. The aim was to seek valuable experience and depth at a time when the New Zealand 3x3 programme struggles to gain the attention of high performance funders. Only Antonia Edmondson remained from last year’s championship team. She led 3x3 debutants Stella Beck, Nicole Ruske and Tanaka Gapare. Admirably they made it to the quarter-finals where they faced the professional and very slick Japan side of Mio Shinozaki, Minami Iju, Risa Nishioka and Kiho Miyashita.

New Zealand started superbly with Stella Beck sinking her first attempt outside the arc. Gapare then forced a turnover and Edmondson followed with a quick bucket. 

Nicole Ruske then executed a text book spin move to score and suddenly the Kiwis were 4-0 up. The Japanese fought back to stay in touch, but the Kiwis somehow managed to retain a lead for the first four minutes. Yet the well-drilled Japan side wore the Kiwis down, managing to drive to the post with sheer unmatched pace and intuitive passing that can only come from hours of preparation. Ultimately the Japan side out-played the Kiwis for a 21 to 15 victory.

The New Zealand men’s side of player-coach Karl Noyer, Zachary Easthope, Tom Allan, and Aaron Bailey-Nowell will be incredulous after their opening loss to Qatar. 

Having led Qatar for the majority of the game, they look like they were on for a victory in the final moments. Their early ball movement was quick and clean, showing their time spent playing together in the Basketball New Zealand Quest Tour had resulted in clear understanding of each other’s roles. Bailey-Nowell played above his 6’3” height, showing strength under the rim and Noyer was on target from deep with an open shot, yet Qatar managed to stay within reach. The Kiwis led 19 to 13 with four minutes to play and two points from victory. Then a wave of bad luck washed over the Kiwis. The New Zealander’s two pointers rimed out, a game-winning free throw was missed and a clear goal tend that went uncalled. While on-court chaos unravelled the Kiwis advantage, Qatar scrapped their way to 19 points. Then Noyer was called for a foul and Qatar’s Nedim Muslic iced two free throws for the win, 21 to 20.

The Kiwi men then faced host-nation China with a packed home crowd, which is always a tough ask. It was a must win for the Kiwis if they were to advance to the quarter-finals. The physical nature of the opening minutes saw both teams with four fouls within the first 90 seconds. Bailey-Nowell again showed fighting spirit, hustling for rebounds. Noyer’s left-hand went hot from behind the arc for three clean two-pointers, yet China kept in touch throughout as the two teams tied scores multiple times. That was until China snuck ahead 20 to 18. Then the Kiwis were caught short at the start of the next play by Peidong Chen who used his speed to slide left and lay-in the game winner, taking it out 21 to 18.

Now this same Kiwi men’s side will head to a stage of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour in Chengdu, tipping off next weekend on 1 June. The New Zealand women’s team will likely return to the experienced tried and true as they head to the FIBA 3x3 World Cup on 18 June.

More information: Tournament website, http://www.fiba.basketball/3x3asiacup