The New Zealand Select team found the going a little tough in the first of two games against China B on Saturday night at AUT Sports Centre, North Shore.
With the team only assembling in Auckland 24 hours before the fixture it was understandable that they lacked cohesiveness at times. Despite that the team played with a lot of spirit trailing by just 9 points early in the final period before eventually losing 91-62.
15 year old Cantabrian Charlotte Whittaker started for New Zealand Select alongside Janet Main, Jodi Hikuroa-Jeffrey, Ashley Gayle and Brooke Blair.
Blair was in good form early scoring from inside and out as she accumulated 10 quick points and with Shea Crotty nailing a three the Kiwis trailed just 20-17 at quarter time.
Whittaker scored the first two baskets in the second period but NZS fell behind 33-25.
However a 7-point run courtesy of Gayle, Katelin Noyer and the impressive Blair forced a China time out as there lead was reduced to just a single point, 33-32.
A commendable first half effort ended with the NZS trailing 39-36.
China started the second half with a couple of quick baskets before Shalae Salmon converted from inside. A 7-0 China run prompted New Zealand coach Jody Cameron to call a time out.
Gayle made a basket on the restart but her team found it increasingly difficult to get offensive looks, losing the quarter by 11 points to trail 61-47 at the three-quarter mark.
A Crotty triple got the home support excited and then an inside basket from Gayle reduced the China lead to single digits. The Kiwis coped well with China’s height advantage but were frequently undone by the visitors ability to connect from beyond the three-point arc. Their ninth of the night extended the lead to 72-54 and with less than six minutes to play coach Cameron needed a timeout.
NZ Select were unable to dent the Chinese advantage in the closing stages but can reflect on a job well done given such limited preparation. Blair, Crotty, Main and Gayle headlined a good team effort.
China converted 10 of 17 threes (59%) and won the rebounding count 36-25 both areas NZ Select will look to address ahead of game two on Monday.
NZ Select 62 – Blair 22, Crotty 11, Gayle 9/9/3, Main 5, Whittaker 4, Noyer 4, Salmon 3, Terai Sadler 2, Jodi Hikuroa-Jeffrey 2
China B 91