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Tall Blacks show courage in overtime defeat against Canada

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The MBO Tall Blacks final 12 for the FIBA World Cup has been named following tonight’s preparation game against Canada in Sydney, with the team set to fly out to China for a final week of preparation tomorrow (Thursday).

The game itself was a thriller, with the Tall Blacks showing tremendous courage and no shortage of skill and basketball smarts in taking Canada to overtime before losing 103-100, with Corey Webster leading all-scorers with 33 point.

From the opening buzzer the Tall Blacks showed they had learned their lessons from the night before, extending to a 23-13 opening quarter lead through some lock down defence. Canada were up for the fight though and found their rhythm in the second quarter to close to a three-point deficit and took a narrow lead at 60-59 into the last.

Canada then extended in the final quarter and looked to have the game in safe keeping, but the Tall Blacks were having none of it and despite being undermanned with Shea Ili again sitting out and Alex Pledger and Jarrod Kenny on limited minutes through illness, they came roaring back to force overtime through some clutch plays, in particular from the Webster brothers, with Corey sinking a crucial and-one to bring the scores level at 81 with just seconds to play.

Overtime went a similar way, with Canada making some clutch three’s to extend to as many as nine points in the extra five minutes, but the Tall Blacks came roaring back again with Tai and Corey Webster again at the heart of things, but it proved one possession too far as Canada managed to hang on in the final seconds.

Coach Paul Henare was pleased with the return to a more typical Tall Blacks effort, based on energy, work rate and an up-tempo offence.

"That was a much better effort and playing at the required intensity at this level. That was really good to see the response, obviously we are still disappointed with the result, but knowing the way we can play against quality athleticism, length and what they were doing systematically, it was pleasing to see such a change in such a short turnaround.

"We have to keep reminding ourselves about how we do those things, through messages, conversations, watching video - it is a good reminder that we can play at that level. It is repeated messages about doing those same things over and over again."

MBO Tall Blacks 100 (C Webster 33, Rusbatch 15, Loe 12, T Webster 11)

Canada 103 (P Scrubb 24, Wiltjer 18, Pangos 17)

Overtime

TALL BLACKS NAME FINAL 12

Immediately after the game, Henare confirmed his final 12 for China, with the team due to fly out early on Thursday morning to play their final three warm up games, with 17-year-old Taine Murray and Tom Vodanovich missing out and heading home from Sydney.

Henare says both have contributed well during their time with the team but will have to bide their time for a first World Cup appearance.

"These are always the most difficult decisions and all the more so when leading into a tournament such as a World Cup. Tom and Taine have both shown they are going to return to this environment, and I hope will take a huge amount from their time in camp and on tour.

"Taine has been on such a steep learning curve this whole time; he has grown immensely as a basketball player. He is a lovely young man, brought up well by his folks. He has a real desire to learn and grow in his craft.

"Donnie’s (Vodanovich) enthusiasm and energy is fantastic, especially away from the floor given he hasn’t played as much as he would like, that hasn’t waned. His input vocally at meetings and on the side of the court has been outstanding, both have had a positive impact on our team."

Henare is excited at the group of 12 selected though, and proud of what they and others have achieved to get to this day.

"The group we have decided on is a well-balanced one in respect of their experience and their on-court roles and responsibilities. Most important is their understanding of and ability to play the game we are looking to play as a team in China and we will continue to use the remainder of our build up to fine tune and look to be at our best on September 1st when we run out against Brazil.

"We have had to deal with a couple of injuries and sickness prior to our initial selection and then here in Sydney, that has given other guys a chance to step up and play more minutes. We head to China with an experienced group, but a group that knows they have a lot of hard work ahead, but they are ready to embrace this challenge."

The experience comes in the shape of Tom Abercrombie (third World Cup), while Jarrod Kenny, Corey Webster, Tai Webster, Alex Pledger, Rob Loe and Isaac Fotu are all attending their second World Cup tournament.

Finn Delany, Shea Ili, Jordan Ngatai, Tohi Smith-Milner and Ethan Rusbatch have featured heavily for the Tall Blacks and New Zealand Select over the past four years as the programme under Henare went about building depth across all positions, starting with that memorable 2017 Asia Cup from a largely untried and youthful roster.

Henare says their only goal right now is game one against Brazil on September 1st but readily admits to an underlying motivation at this year’s tournament, with the top ranked team at the World Cup between Australia and New Zealand earning the Oceania berth in Tokyo 2020.

"For many of us as coaches, players and staff the lure of the Tokyo Olympic games is huge and while we are not yet sure what exactly we have to get there, we know the quality of the Boomers and the likelihood that we will have to go deep in the tournament to earn that spot.

"That is a huge motivation in this group, we have spoken about it often during our campaign and while the World Cups is in itself a huge challenge, the thought of playing at an Olympics is massive for this group."

MBO Tall Blacks, FIBA World Cup Roster

Guards: Shea Ili, Wellington Saints/Melbourne United; Jarrod Kenny, Bay Hawk’s/Cairns Taipans; Tai Webster, Galatasaray; Corey Webster, NZ Breakers; Ethan Rusbatch, Bay Hawks;

Small Forwards: Tom Abercrombie, Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers; Jordan Ngatai, Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers;

Power Forwards: Isaac Fotu, Universo Treviso; Finn Delany, Nelson Giants/NZ Breakers;

Centres: Alex Pledger, Southland Sharks/Melbourne United; Rob Loe, Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers; Tohi Smith-Milner, Melbourne United;

Head Coach: Paul Henare

Assistant Coach: Pero Cameron

Assistant Coach: Ross McMains

Physiotherapist: Anousith Bouaaphone

Massage Therapist: Shelley Moana-Hiha

Doctor: Hamish Osborne

Manager: Andrew Dewhurst

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