The Junior Tall Blacks have advanced to the FIBA Asian Championship final with a gutsy 87-82 win over China on Friday night.
Sharp-shooter Oscar Oswald got things going with back-to-back triples for New Zealand. China’s zone defence presented open looks and Oswald took full advantage early on. James Moors continued his fine form, dropping 10 points in the first quarter alone. China’s balanced scoring attack, though, helped tie the game at 21 after 10 minutes of play.
It remained a close contest through the second quarter, but some efficient scoring helped New Zealand to a 41-39 lead at the midway point of the game. NZ would lead by as much as 10 in the third before a Chinese comeback cut the deficit to one heading into the fourth quarter.
China managed to grab a brief lead within the first five minutes of the fourth, but New Zealand clamped down when they needed to and pulled away to seal the victory. China possessed superior size, but NZ used relentless effort and coherent play on both ends of the floor to get the job done.
Flynn Cameron dropped an impressive triple-double, recording 19 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists and two steals on 8-of-13 shooting (1-of-2 3PT) from the field. Maxwell Darling produced a team-high 24 points with seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and three blocks on 11-of-17 shooting, and Kruz Perrott-Hunt finished with 21 points and eight rebounds on 9-of-18 shooting and 3-of-7 from three. James Moors added 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting for NZ.
New Zealand was great as a team offensively, shooting 55 per cent from the field and 6-of-14 on their 3-point attempts. Their effort defensively deserves some recognition, too.
New Zealand will play Australia in Saturday’s final at 8:45pm NZT. The two teams have already met during the tournament, and it was Australia who managed a dominant 111-62 win. NZ will have to be at their best to beat a very talented Australian side.
Assistant Coach Leyton Haddleton said the boys really hit their stride in the second half and turned it up when needed.
"We knew China was going to be a formidable opponent. They are very structured and know what they're good at. Once we locked into what we were trying to achieve on the defensive end, we found that our offence took care of itself.
"Putting pressure on the rim was a big factor in creating opportunities for our guards. Flynn, Kruz, Max and James all had standout performances and were great for us.
"The focus now shifts to tomorrow with one final game to play. We're lucky to get another shot at Australia, who are clearly the favorites to win the tournament for obvious reasons. We're hoping to go in there and sneak one from them; there's no reason why we can't. There's enough talent on our team to do so, it's just about whether or not the boys want it badly enough."
All of the games will be livestreamed on FIBA’s Youtube channel, and you can also watch New Zealand’s games on the Basketball New Zealand Facebook page.
Team schedule (all times NZT):
August 5 vs. Bahrain – 94-62 (W)
August 6 vs. Thailand – 89-47 (W)
August 7 vs. Australia – 111-62 (L)
August 8-11: Classification and Finals
2018 Junior Tall Blacks (New Zealand Under 19)
Flynn Cameron, New Zealand
Matthew O’Connell, Taranaki
Tama Faamausili, Palmerston North
Max DeGeest, Canterbury
Kruz Perrott-Hunt, Harbour
Oscar Oswald, Palmerston North
Maxim Stephens, Waikato
Max Darling, Canterbury
Tomas Higgins, Canterbury
James Moors, Harbour
Sam Mennenga, Harbour
Nathan Hanna, Otago
Gavin Briggs - Head Coach
Miles Pearce - Assistant Coach
Leyton Haddleton - Assistant Coach
Charles Maaka - Team Manager
Dawn Chalmers - Team Physio
· See FIBA’s tournament website here: https://www.fiba.basketball/asia/u18/2018
· More basketball news at www.nz.basketball and Basketball New Zealand’s social media channels: @BasketballNZ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.