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Tall Blacks target high seeding after qualifying for World Cup with emphatic win over Syria - Dec 2, 2018


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Paul Henare
The Tall Blacks have qualified for the 2019 Fiba World Cup following a comprehensive win over Syria. The 97-74 victory at TSB Bank Arena in Wellington on Sunday afternoon confirmed New Zealand as one of Asia's six automatic qualifiers for basketball's showpiece event in China next August. "We walk away from this having achieved one of our goals, which is to qualify for the World Cup," Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare said. "Our next goal is to finish with the highest possible seed so then we go into the draw for the World Cup with a good chance of getting a good draw." New Zealand have two remaining qualification matches away to Lebanon and Jordan in February, which Henare said they would still pick a strong squad for to get that high seeding. "For us, nothing changes, we'll take our best possible team to Lebanon and Jordan and try to continue this winning streak." The win was New Zealand's ninth in a row in qualifying. They have lost just once, in their opening match of phase one against South Korea in Wellington in November 2017. Sunday's result was put beyond doubt inside the first 12 minutes, with the Tall Blacks leading by 26 at the end of the first quarter. It took Syria almost six minutes to score their first point. By then they had already committed four turnovers and the score was 12-1. By the end of the quarter it was 31-5. Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare spread the minutes around his squad, with the likes of teenagers Kruz Perrott-Hunt and Tyrell Harrison (213-C-99) gaining valuable court time with their more experienced team-mates. Derone Raukawa was the only one of the 12 Tall Blacks to not trouble the scorers in the first half as the lead extended to 35 (61-26) at the main break. Tom Abercrombie led the scoring with 15 in the half on 5/6 shooting. New Zealand did their best to keep their intensity up in the second half, continuing with their full court press and forcing Syria into 14 turnovers by the end of the match. Abercrombie ended as their top-scorer, despite not scoring in the second half, while Mika Vukona (197-F-82), Ethan Rusbatch (196-G/F-92, college: Lincoln Trail CC) and Alex Pledger (215-C-87, college: Belm.Abbey) all got into double digits. Syria kept battling away, and ended up winning the second half 48-36 on the back of good play from Tarek Ajabi and Abdulwahab Alhamwi. The Tall Blacks scored just 11 points in the final quarter. The result and margin of victory was not unexpected. Syria lost their three previous matches in phase two of qualifying by an average of 42 points, including by 41 to the Tall Blacks in Lebanon in September. They lost by 49 to China in China on Thursday before flying to New Zealand for this match. Despite the comfortable nature of the win, Henare was pleased to be able to give his young players invaluable experience. "While we might've dropped off towards the end there, to finish the game with a really inexperienced group [was good], they will walk away from this experience better off for it. "There is no substitute for being on the floor and competing on the international stage no matter who you're playing against."
Courtesy of: stuff.co.nz  




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