The Junior Tall Blacks (JTBs) opened their FIBA Under 18 Oceania Championship with a win over Samoa this afternoon, in a game that was at times chaotic, but ultimately controlled by New Zealand.
First possession and points went to New Zealand, with 6’9” Callum McRae rolling the ball in off his fingertips for two, which began a strong display with attractive periods where the JTBs were quick, efficient, clean and tactical.
JTB Head Coach, Daryl Cartwright, was eager to give every player an opportunity, spreading the minutes across his roster from the opening whistle. At times New Zealand took the easier points through their tall timber of Waardenburg and McRae, with the two leading the scoring early. But that tactic was more relaxed midway through the second quarter, as the Kiwis eased away and established an assertive lead.
With the confidence that comes with points on the board, the team became more comfortable on the fast-break and shooting from outside the arc, yet the JTBs struggled from long range, sinking only 2 from 15 three point attempts during the game. They combatted that erratic play with consistency in the key. Tanne Samuel had some standout moments, revelling with more space late in the second quarter, dunking his way to lead the half time points with 10.
As the third quarter tipped off New Zealand led 61 to 17. Samoa continued to try moving the ball, but always struggled under strong pressure, with large passages of full-court press defence by the Kiwis. Ennui started to set in for Samoa. Their foul-count rate increased and the Kiwis benefitted with easy points, rolling into the fourth quarter 90 to 31.
Despite the big total, there were periods of play that seemed too relaxed by the JTBs. Easy points were regularly missed, simple layups rolled out, and the pursuit of some defensive rebounds lacked desperation and aggression. Coach Cartwright will be looking at where he needs his team to tighten up to ensure the machine runs smoothly, particularly when Australia is powering through their Pool with colossal scores – 132 against Guam and 126 New Caledonia. They are again rock-solid favourites in this event that guarantees the winner a place in the FIBA Under 19 World Cup in Cairo next year. That said, this is the first game and the JTBs will be happy with the final result.
Final score: New Zealand 122, Samoa 35.
Top scorers: Waardenburg 21, Samuel 18, Fahrensohn and F.Cameron 11.
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