It was a double dose of Australia verse New Zealand in both the girls and boys grand finals of the FIBA Under 17 Oceania Championships in Guam tonight, with Australia walking away with both titles.
Aon New Zealand Under 17 women V Australia
The Aon New Zealand Under 18 Women’s Grand Final against Australia started with Charlotte Whittaker early post up and score, backed up by two silky Charlisse Ledger- Walker drives to the basket. The Kiwis ripped into an early 12-4 lead which had the powerhouse Australians rattled.
The Kiwi’s competed with the aggressive and physical Australians, with great contributions from Leah Mafua on both ends of the floor. However the Aussies would get some momentum of their own, collecting fouls as they continually attacked the basket, and New Zealand were deep into the penalty with three minutes to go, the score 18-16 in Australia’s favour. It was then basket for basket down the stretch to the end of the first quarter and New Zealand reclaimed the lead 23-22 and game on!
It took two minutes into the second quarter before Australia scored the first points after the break. The Kiwis struggled for an early basket and that would force Jody Cameron to bring Charlotte Whittaker back into the game after she got into foul problems earlier. Olivia O’Neill, Leah Mafua and Charlisse Ledger-Walker followed, logging big minutes and taking its toll on New Zealand. Ledger-Walker would get a rest and the Aussies would take control late in the second quarter going into the halftime break ahead 39-32.
Australia would get the jump on the Kiwi’s in the second half going out to a 45-34 lead after 3 minutes and the Kiwi’s blowing some easy chances under the hoop and missed three point shots from the perimeter. Conversely the Aussies were making their shots and layups extending their lead 50-36 with six minutes to go in the third. Mafua would come up with the best block of the game leading to a fast break layup for Ledger-Walker. New Zealand would again rue missed easy lay ups and shots. Australia led in the third quarter 59-46.
Their consistency and strength in their bench players would continue into the fourth quarter. They broke the game open four minutes to lead by 20 points. More missed shots and defensive rebounding would hurt the Kiwi’s and ultimately was their demise. Still Coach Cameron was happy with her teams tournament.
“I was pleased with the intensity and commitment our girls played with tonight. We had a few calls not go our way, however we missed a lot of shots and struggled to keep them of the defensive boards in the second half. We’ll look forward to preparing for the FIBA U18 Asian Champs next year.”
New Zealand 60: (Charlisse Ledger Walker – 21 Points and 4 assists; Charlotte Whittaker – 14 points; Leah Mafua – 11points and 6 rebounds).
Aon New Zealand Under 17 men V Australia
The Aon New Zealand Under 17 men’s game had a lot to live up to, with both the 2016 and 2015 finals going down to the wire, with both countries claiming one victory each. It seemed the crowd was not going to get that result this time as the game opened with a fast paced but disjointed quarter.
Australia won the tip-off and drew first blood. Both teams looked for reliable points by driving to the basket early, not ready to test themselves outside the arc, yet they struggled under the post.
Australia was slightly more consistent, which showed on the score board, as they led throughout the quarter. Oscar Oswald and Kruz Perrott-Hunt kept the Kiwis within reach to go into the break 15 to 23.
The Australian’s returned in the second quarter, displaying more confidence as they scored the first six points with layups, while the Kiwis put themselves under increasing pressure by missing shot after shot. Finally Wellington’s Joseph Ahie managed to step inside the defense for two points, while also drawing a foul for an And 1. That’s when Australia’s K. Stattmann seemed to take it personally.
Stattmann, who high scored in this match with 23, went on a personal run of six points and suddenly the Kiwis found themselves trailing by 15. New Zealand kept looking to the ever reliable Oscar Oswald as he managed to etch out a few more points, sneaking around the Aussies wall of defense, but it wasn’t enough to bring the Kiwis any comfort and Australia continued to draw out their lead, going into the half 48 points to New Zealand’s 26.
The Guam crowd chanted for the Kiwis as they stepped on court to begin the third quarter, which was perhaps the motivation for Oswald to hit a long three pointer. But again the inconsistency crept in and the Kiwis missed the following three shots. Enter Tama Faamausili who got his eye in, making a couple of buckets. Yet the Australians were just too slick on their offence, making the Kiwis pay for every mistake. The Kiwis just could not reliably break through Australia’s tall timber and by the time the third quarter ticked down the game was at risk of becoming a blowout with Australia leading 73 to 39.
Kruz Perrott-Hunt showed his class early in the fourth quarter with some deft touches to score for the Kiwis. But overall the Australians just continued as they had done all game, proving more consistent in winning rebounds, offence and defense, and simply running through their systems.
The Australians never really felt threatened and eased slightly in the fourth as the cruised to victory. The New Zealand teams will take home a well-earned silver medals and their qualification for the 2018 FIBA Asia Cup. They’ll also have plenty of lessons to consider as they consider how they will lift to a level of play that this talented Australian team are commanding.
New Zealand 55: Oscar Oswald (20 points), Kruz Perrot-Hunt (12)
For more on the FIBA U17 Oceania Championships go to http://www.fiba.com/oceania/u17/2017
(*The New Zealand definition of age is different from FIBA. The New Zealand definition for Under 18 is ‘yet to turn the age of 18’, which is what FIBA terms as Under 17.)
For more go to www.basketball.org.nz and Basketball New Zealand’s social media channels: @BasketballNZ via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram