The New Zealand U18 3x3 women’s team of Ashlee Strawbridge, Sharne Pupuke-Robati, Tayla Dalton and Charlisse Leger-Walker put on gutsy and clinical performances to outclass Russia and Hungary at the World Cup in Mongolia this evening.
They have finished Pool B in second place behind USA and will play the winner of Pool D in the quarters. Their opponent will be decided later this evening but odds of topping Pool D look to be in Japan’s favour.
All players contributed in what was a truly team effort of slick ball movement, rebounding, shooting and defence.
Dalton opened the scoring against Russia with her signature speed, followed by Leger-Walker and Pupuke-Robati ones to see New Zealand 3-0 ahead.
Russia’s Anatasia Badina was a big threat for the Kiwis, who had shot consistent twos from deep in previous games. She did that early to bring them ahead 4 to 3.
The Kiwis looked to Pupuke-Robati in the key, who was far too strong. Russia struggled to contain the 5’8” athlete as she converted point after point. Yet Russia is a talented side and were unwavering in their early offence, matching the Kiwis on the scoreboard.
Strawbridge contributed well from mid-range and gathered possession through crucial rebounding. Leger-Walker found the net from deep to pull the Kiwis ahead.
As both sides battled evenly, fatigue became a factor. The scores stalled at 9-8 to NZ for some time until Russia eventually created some rare space around the Kiwis defence to draw even. Russia slipped in one more bucket and the pressure was on NZ with three minutes on the clock, down 9 to 10. Step up Leger-Walker, drilling a crucial two pointer under pressure. With iced veins Russia replied with the same shot, the two sides traded the lead. Dalton again used her speed to outflank her mark and tied the game at 12 all. The Kiwis then, again, looked to Pupuke-Robati in the key. She counted the next two baskets to move the Kiwis into the lead by two and onto victory. Ultimately it was a very gutsy team effort to defeat a highly capable Russia, 14 to 12.
New Zealand faced Hungary just over an hour later. Early on Pupuke-Robati hit a two pointer, making the other nations take note that this player can also shoot from beyond the arc.
All players applied pressure, boxing out relentlessly and Hungary became frustrated. Mistakes started to flow and the Kiwis capitalised.
Dalton was sharp from deep, Pupuke-Robati was again impossible to match up against in the key, Strawbridge again pulled in the rebounds which resulted in points and Leger-Walker chalked was pivotal throughout. The Kiwis also played tough, using up their foul count as they refused to let Hungary in. It was a 3x3 clinic from the Kiwis who outclassed the Hungarians, winning 16 to 9.
Their quarter final will be tomorrow at 6:15pm (NZT). The Semi-final on that side of the draw will be at 9:55pm and the final at 00:15. Watch live on the FIBA 3x3 YouTube channel or the @BasketballNZ Facebook site.
Tournament website: http://www.fiba.basketball/3x3U18WC/2019