In an outstanding display of competitive spirit, the New Zealand Tall Ferns 3x3 team has secured their rightful place at the Women’s FIBA 3x3 World Cup after winning the Bronze medal at the FIBA 3x3 World Cup Qualifier in San Juan, Puerto Rico this morning.
It was an incredibly gutsy result, particularly after New Zealand faced the loss of Penina Davidson when she was rushed to hospital with an ankle injury, suffered during the quarter-final against hosts Puerto Rico. The team rallied and fought hard for the win, running down the 10 minute clock to take it 16-11.
Less than two hours later Micaela Cocks, Kalani Purcell and Chevannah Paalvast stepped on court again to face third-ranked Spain. This was one of the more physical and fast-paced women’s games of the day with the New Zealanders fighting for every possession and creating space with clever passing. Unfortunately the Kiwis couldn’t sink their shots from behind the arc and the lack of a sub took its toll. Going point for point, the games was anyone’s until the final moments when Spain’s Paula Palomares found her range and hit a crucial two-pointer to help cement the victory 16-14. Clearly exhausted, it was an unlucky result for the Kiwis.
With the World Cup qualification spot and a Bronze medal on the line, the Tall Ferns 3x3 team returned 90 minutes later to take on Brazil. Still with only three players, the Kiwis were clinical and focused as they fought their way into the game early. All players contributed. Micaela Cocks was lightening-quick to the post, as she had been all tournament, to score three quick buckets in succession. Purcell followed with a mid-range jump shot and Paalvast slipped by Brazil’s desperate defence as the Kiwis suddenly found themselves 6-1 ahead. Although the Kiwis were tiring, the Brazilians couldn’t find the net. The Kiwis pounced on mistakes and made Brazil pay for any flatfooted defensive efforts. New Zealand were in complete control and thanks to a very professional performance, the Kiwis secured the Bronze and their World Cup Berth.
Thankfully news came back that Davidson was released from hospital just before the match, cleared of structural damage. It was noted by Micaela Cocks straight after this morning’s win.
“We are so glad that Penina is ok. We did miss her out there. She played so well for her first 3x3 comp.”
When asked how the team managed to secure such a strong result without a substitute player, which at this level is an immense disadvantage, Cocks said it simply came down to their personal fitness.
“It was very difficult, but we play basketball for a living and we are fit. This result is so satisfying. It was a very hard day today, but very rewarding. Super proud and we are going to the World Champs!”
Coach Anthony Corban was all praise for team, after what has been a tough tournamnet.
"I'm so proud of these girls. They are amazing people, just genuine amazing-athletes. What more can a coach ask for from his players? Pure Kiwi pride was on show with this team."
The women’s FIBA 3x3 World Cup will be held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, from 18 June this year. The top three teams at that event will be guaranteed a spot in an Olympic Qualifying Tournament in May 2020.
The team’s next task will be defending their 3x3 Asia Cup title in China on 24 May.
Tall Ferns 3x3 2019 Schedule:
• May 4-5. FIBA 3x3 World Cup Qualifier, San Juan, Puerto Rico (Won bronze).
• May 24-26. FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup, Changsha, China.
• June 18-23. FIBA 3x3 World Cup, Amsterdam, Netherlands.