The New Zealand Women’s Under-17 basketball team will be playing for consolation only at the remainder of the FIBA Under 17 World Cup in Belarus.
In their inaugural appearance at the event, New Zealand has lost their opening four matches.
Following a sluggish start, New Zealand produced two fiercely competitive showings before suffering a hiding to Australia in their Round of Sixteen fixture yesterday.
New Zealand were beaten 83-48 by Spain in their opening game in Minsk on Saturday.
The score didn’t do justice to the New Zealand effort as in the middle of the third period they trailed one of the European powerhouse teams by single figures. However 33 turnovers, most at the back end of the game, proved costly as the Kiwis were outscored 26-8 in the closing quarter.
Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu led the New Zealand effort with a fine double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds (including 6 offensive boards) with Tayla Dalton (11 points and 9 rebounds), Charlisse Leger-Walker (10 points) and Tara Manumaleuga (9 points and 6 rebounds) the other major contributors.
New Zealand were certainly not overawed in their first appearance on the world stage as Kailahi-Fulu gave them an early 7-4 lead and although that advantage was quickly extinguished the Kiwis were giving a good account of themselves trailing 22-19 at quarter time and 39-31 at halftime.
New Zealand’s Spanish slump endured for much of the match against Hungary. Down twenty-two points early in the third period New Zealand remarkably closed to within a single point (55-54) with four minutes to play but couldn’t quite pull off a major upset against the European Championship runners-up.
Guard Tara Manumaleuga paced the Kiwis with a game high 23 points and she received fine support from Sharne Pupuke-Robati (6 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists), Charlisse Leger-Walker (10 points and 10 rebounds), Helen Mathews (7 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals) and Tayla Dalton (4 points and 4 rebounds).
The effort was even more commendable given forward Jazz Kailahi-Fulu missed all the second half with a rolled ankle after New Zealand had entered the contest two players light with the injured pair of Isabelle Cook and Kyra Paniora absent for the second game running.
New Zealand Head Coach Lori McDaniel was understandably pleased with the performance of her charges.
“The team definitely stepped up to the challenge of making changes for the second game, going down to the wire losing by just eight points to the second best team at the European Championship is absolutely incredible,” he said.
New Zealand was left to rue a missed opportunity in their last game of pool play against Argentina on Tuesday. The Kiwis succumbed 60-52 to Argentina on Tuesday.
When Sharne Pupuke-Robati (17 points and 9 rebounds) converted a pair of free throws with 1:57 to play New Zealand trailed by just a single point (50-49) and it looked as if their strong defensive effort might carry them to victory.
However it was not to be - Argentina reeled off nine straight points in the closing two minutes to deny the Kiwis.
After a horror third period, when the Kiwis scored just six points, it was Pupuke-Robati and Charlisse Leger-Walker (13 points, 6 rebounds and 10 assists) that provided the scoring impetus early in the fourth quarter to carry New Zealand within sight of victory.
Head Coach Lori McDaniel was understandably disappointed with the result.
“It was a disappointing finish after a really good start. In the first half we executed the game plan, we moved the ball well and defensively did the things we wanted to do.
“In the second half we went away from that and it cost us down the stretch,” he said.
Early on, three’s from Madison Hema and Shauna Povey helped propel New Zealand to a 16-13 first quarter lead.
Pupuke-Robati and Jazz Kailahi-Fulu (8 points and 6 rebounds) were prominent as a 13-3 run stretched the New Zealand advantage to 29-16. Argentina dealt only in triples, making three in the period to trail New Zealand 31-23 at the interval.
Despite Ella Bradley being the only Kiwi to score from the field in the third quarter, the other points coming from the free-throw line, New Zealand trailed by just a single point (38-37) with ten minutes to play.
The disappointment of a near miss against the Pumas clearly told against Australia, New Zealand hammered 77-37. The reigning World Champions were dominant from the outset and Lori McDaniel was naturally downbeat when summing up the New Zealand performance.
“It was a disappointing showing against a very tough and well drilled Australian side,” McDaniel conceded.
The Kiwis only shot 24% (12/51) from the floor and made just 3 from 29 triples – all scored by Leger-Walker. New Zealand turned the ball over on 26 occasions compared with just 9 possession losses by the opposition.
Charlisse Leger-Walker scored 15 points (5/11FG), Sharne Pupuke-Robati was next best with 8 points and Jazz Kailahi-Fulu, featuring in the top ten rebounders at the World Cup, pulled down 7 boards to accompany 6 points.
Shyla Heal, daughter of legendary Australian Boomer Shane Heal, led the scoring for the Sapphires with 20 points.
New Zealand plays Belarus in the 9-16 place quarter finals.
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand