The New Zealand Women’s U17 basketball team finished 12th in their inaugural appearance at the FIBA U17 World Cup in Minsk, Belarus.
After being regulated to the consolation fixtures, New Zealand beat hosts Belarus to secure a first ever Women’s FIBA Age-Group World Cup victory.
Tara Manumaleuga led all scorers with 19 points, Tayla Dalton scored 14 points (6/10FG) and Charlisse Leger-Walker and Shauna Povey added 10 points apiece. Sharne Pupuke-Robati (12 points and 13 rebounds) and Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu (8 points, 15 rebounds and 5 steals) were dominant on the boards as New Zealand won the rebounding count 54-39 and the match 73-59.
New Zealand Head Coach Lori McDaniel was naturally delighted with the result.
“The coaching staff, management and players are absolutely stoked to get the win and not just a win but a very convincing one.
“We had players like Sharne Pupuke-Robati putting together some really great numbers across the board, McDaniel acclaimed.
New Zealand grabbed the initiative at the beginning of the third period outscoring the hosts 12-1 after being down 28-29 at halftime. Povey and Manumaleuga both knocked down threes as the Kiwis moved the ball with pace and accuracy to find the open shooter.
Belarus fought their way back into the contest but a buzzer beating three from Dalton ensured New Zealand were well placed at three-quarter time leading 52-45.
Povey and Pupuke-Robati initiated a decisive 8-2 run at the start of the fourth period and from there New Zealand, with Leger-Walker controlling proceedings, eased to a famous victory.
New Zealand should have enjoyed repeat success against Mali, but fell in overtime 66-64 in overtime to Mali at the FIBA Under 17 World Cup in Minsk, Belarus on Saturday.
A victory would have given New Zealand a top ten finish in their first ever appearance at a Women’s FIBA Age-Group World Cup but the Kiwis, after controlling most of the contest, were stunned by a late Mali revival.
In a bruising encounter New Zealand led 46-32 at three-quarter time and appeared on track for consecutive wins after defeating Belarus the previous day.
When Charlisse Leger-Walker (25 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists) and Tara Manumaleuga (14 points) scored on consecutive plays New Zealand led 57-46. However, plagued by turnovers, the Kiwis were outscored 11-0 by the African champions in the closing three and a half minutes.
New Zealand Head Coach Lori McDaniel was, like her players, very disappointed with the result.
“It was a tough battle that came down to the wire. Again we were plagued by costly turnovers in a very physical battle.
“Mali never gave up and credit to them for battling through for the win,” McDaniel mourned.
New Zealand finished the tournament with a disappointing 88-66 defeat to China.
Charlisse Leger-Walker led all scorers with 23 points and added 11 rebounds and 4 steals. Tara Manumaleuga contributed 18 points (5/9 3PG) and Jazz Kailahi-Fulu secured 7 rebounds and 8 points.
New Zealand fell 17-11 behind in the first quarter and 45-26 at half-time.
Things looked to be turning ugly in the middle of the third period when the Kiwis fell thirty points behind but they rallied behind three triples from Manumaleuga and scores from Helen Matthews, Tayla Dalton and Kailahi-Fulu to cut the deficit to 59-43 at the three-quarter mark.
New Zealand Head Coach Lori McDaniel lamented her team’s sluggish opening.
“After a very slow first half the girls made some really great adjustments and came out with a lot of fight.
“The Chinese shot the ball unnervingly well which is a credit to them but our girls showed some great fight....“Overall I think we have showed we can compete on this world stage.” McDaniel said.
Leger-Walker, a tireless leader, finished the tournament placed fourth highest individual scorer (15.1ppg) and eighth highest rebounder (8.0rpg).
Manumaleuga averaged 12 points per game and finished twelfth highest scorer.
Kailahi-Fulu was the fourth highest rebounder (9.0rpg)
In the gold medal game USA proved much too good for France winning 92-40 and Australia claimed bronze beating Hungary 57-51.
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