New Zealand Select made a statement at the Four Nations Tournament in China, demolishing Cameroon 122-84 in an offensive master-class, led by the hottest of hands in Alonzo Burton, with the Mountain Airs guard nailing 8 of 11 shots beyond the arc, on a night when even a power cut and complete darkness could not halt the Kiwis.
The win puts New Zealand into what is essentially a final tomorrow night against the local Chinese CBA team Jiangsu, a victory in that match would complete a clean sweep on tour after two earlier wins over Cameroon and a first up tournament win over Montenegro.
The Kiwis showed their intent from the opening whistle, with captain Ethan Rusbatch nailing his first three and two quick layups to establish a massive 31-18 lead at the end of the first quarter. Even Derone Raukawa getting in early foul trouble was no problem, with Taylor Britt ending with the impressive stat line of 18 points, 10 assists and 4 rebounds.
Once again Paul Henare handed the coaching duties over to Judd Flavell, and the New Zealand machine ran smoothly for the Southland Sharks coach.
“That was a very good performance out there tonight, especially the way they made a statement at the start of the game. We have spoken about getting on the front foot early on, not allowing teams to settle, when we go at that pace, it is going to be tough for anyone to stay with us.
“We were able to look to the next player to maintain the pressure at both ends of the floor, the bench did a great job of maintaining that momentum or coming in when we had foul trouble, I haven’t seen the spread of minutes yet, but everyone contributed at some point in the game.
"There is just something special when you get to work with a group of young players like this, they are all so eager to learn and have represented New Zealand superbly on this trip, they know though that the job isn't finished, they get the chance to do that tomorrow night.”
Even the loss of power in the early stages of the second half couldn’t halt the New Zealanders, with the stadium thrown into darkness and delaying the game for 20 minutes. Raukawa continued the charge when the lights came back on, returning from his early foul troubles to finish with 14 points on 5 of 6 shooting.
Tom Vodanovich responded to a difficult night against Montenegro with an energetic 19 points and 9 rebounds, earned on a perfect 6 of 6 from the field, including three triples, while Mitch Newton had his best game on tour with 11 points, another to go perfect from the field.
New Zealand Select 122 (Burton 26; Vodanovich 19pts, 9rbs; Britt 18pts, 10assists, 4rbds; Raukawa 14; Newton 11)
Cameroon 84 (Tametong 19; Kome 16; Akumenzoh 13)
New Zealand play Jiangsu in the final game of the tournament tomorrow night, August 19, tip off 9pm local time (1am August 20 NZT).
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