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Tall Blacks dominate Syria, move closer to Fiba World Cup qualification - Sep 13, 2018


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Shea Ili
The Tall Blacks moved to the top of their group in Fiba World Cup Asia qualifying after dominating Syria. Shea Ili (184-G-92), Isaac Fotu (203-F-93, college: Hawaii) and Jordan Ngatai (196-F-93, college: BYU-Hawaii, agency: MKP Management) shared a game-high 16 points, while Tai Jack Webster (193-G-95, college: Nebraska) added 15 points as New Zealand secured a 107-66 road win at a largely empty Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Zouk Mikael, near Beirut, Lebanon, where civil war-torn Syria play their home games. The Tall Blacks - missing two of their best players in Corey Webster (188-G-88, college: Lambuth) and Tom Abercrombie, along with NBA star Steven Adams' continued decision to make himself unavailable for national team duty - proved too fast and too skilled for Syria, moving a step closer to qualifying for the 2019 Fiba World Cup in China. The result extended New Zealand's Asia qualifying winning streak to six games and lifted them to 13 points in Group E in the second round. New Zealand's only loss in the qualifying campaign came in their opening game last November in Wellington, 78-70 to South Korea. Syria, who won just two of six games in the first round of Asia qualifying, could not handle the Tall Blacks' extended pressure and quick hands, which forced 21 turnovers, and slick ball movement to find the open outside shooters. Ili and Ngatai both shot 6-of-9 from the field, and Fotu went 5-of-9, while all of Webster's points came via three-pointers, making 5-of-6. On an efficient shooting night, the Tall Blacks shot 50 per cent (16-of-32) on three-point attempts and 53.4 per cent from the field as baskets came easy, especially in the third and fourth quarters. Eight New Zealand players had at least seven points in a balanced offence. Omar Cheikh-Ali (204-C-91) led the way for Syria with 16 points, while Tarek Aljabi had 15. The Tall Black managed to hold naturalised American Justin Hawkins to just 11 points, while 7-foot-2 centre Abdulwahad Alhamwi, who was a menace defensively in the paint early in the game, added 10 points. After the teams exchanged baskets early on, a pair of Webster threes, with an Ili pull-up jumper in between, sparked an 8-0 New Zealand run to lead 15-7. The Tall Blacks led 20-12 after the first period. Ngatai boosted the lead to 10 points, 29-19 at 6:50 in the second quarter on a sweet turnaround jumper, before Webster, Ili, Fotu and Rob Loe drained threes to extend the lead. Ili was the first to double-digits, with 11 points, after an awkward banked-in jumper as the Tall Blacks also had Webster and Ngatai with nine points at the half, leading 45-26. A sloppy defensive effort from New Zealand saw Syria score easy baskets and remain around 20-25 points behind in the third period. Fotu had 10 of his points in the third, while Ili, Webster and Ngatai continued to score with ease. The fourth quarter was a procession as the likes of Finn Delany, Ethan Rusbatch, Dion Prewster (195-G/F-90, college: SF Austin, agency: MKP Management), Jarrod Kenny and Tohi Smith-Milner got extended game time. Next up for the Tall Blacks is long-haul flights to get back to New Zealand to face Lebanon on Monday night in Rotorua, while Syria travel to South Korea. Lebanon were due to face China at the same venue in Beirut following the Tall Blacks win, while Jordan was hosting South Korea in Amman in the other Group E game. Lebanon and Jordan can both join New Zealand on 13 points with wins. Meanwhile, the Philippines, missing a number of players after their infamous brawl with Australia in the last Fiba qualifying window in June, fell to Iran 81-73 in Tehran in Asia Group F.
Courtesy of: stuff.co.nz

  




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