The Aon New Zealand Women’s U17 basketball team has made history by becoming the first junior-women’s national side to qualify for a basketball World Cup.
The team beat Thailand 80-52 in their quarter-final of the FIBA Asian Championship overnight in Inida, securing one of the four qualifying spots for the 2018 FIBA U17 Women’s Basketball World Cup in Belarus next July.
New Zealand meets Japan on Friday for a place in the final.
New Zealand was drawn in ‘Group A’ alongside Australia (L 61-43), Korea (W 74-44) and Chinese Taipei (W 71-66).
The Group A teams cross over with the Group B teams in the quarter-final match ups. Group B is made up of three times champions China, Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong.
Sharne Pupuke-Robati was instrumental in giving New Zealand a 19-12 quarter time lead. The power forward was close to a double-double at the first break with 9 points and 10 rebounds.
There was a more even spread of scoring in the second stanza as the Ferns extended their advantage to 37-21 at the interval. Tayla Dallton took her tally to nine points with Ella Bradley adding six. Wellington forward Paris Lokotui contributed a useful 5 points and 5 rebounds as the Kiwis dominated the rebound count 35-23.
Coach Lori McDaniel called a timeout after a scrappy start to the second half and Pupuke-Robati responded in fine fashion scoring 7 straight points to extend the NZ advantage to 45-27. Tessa Talo-Tomokino added a pair of baskets and when Lokotui scored with a neat inside basket NZ led 57-35 at three-quarter time and had one hand on a World Cup ticket.
After a Tayla Dalton steal and lay-up the Kiwi forwards dominated the final stanza without having to further call on Pupuke-Robati (16 points and 15 rebounds). Lokotui scored 9 points in the period to finish with an impressive 19 points and 9 rebounds with coach McDaniel describing her performance as, “Outstanding, we were very happy with the way she performed today.”
Also impressive in the final quarter were Isabelle Cook (6 points and 9 rebounds) and Ella Bradley (10 points and 7 rebounds).
Coach McDaniel was naturally delighted with the performance of her team and the achievement of reaching the World Cup.
“The girls, the coaching staff and management have worked really hard and I think it shows that the game in NZ is on the rise. Our junior teams are performing really well.”
Captain Leger-Walker was also pleased, “I think the girls really stepped up today, everyone got on the court and made a contribution,” she said.
New Zealand will meet Japan in the semi- final of the Asian Championship on Friday and McDaniel is looking forward to that challenge.
“We are delighted to have achieved our goal of reaching the World Cup but we are also excited to play Japan in the semi-final. Japan are a great team, very disciplined, and they execute well so they will be a true test.”
New Zealand 80 – Lokotui 19p/9r, Pupuke-Robati 16p/15r, Dalton 11, Bradley 10p/7r, Cook 6p/9r, Leger-Walker 6, Talo-Tomokino 5, Paniora 3, Rogers 3, Samia 1
Thailand 52 – Phuekraksa 14, Sriharaksa 10
NZ Under 17 Women’s Team:
• Ella Bradley (Waikato Basketball Council)
• Isabelle Cook (Taranaki Country Basketball Association)
• Tayla Dalton (Harbour Basketball)
• Charlisse Leger-Walker (Waikato Basketball Council)
• Paris Lokotui (Wellington Basketball Association)
• Jordyn Maddix (Harbour Basketball)
• Helen Matthews (North Canterbury Basketball Association)
• Kyra Paniora (Australia)
• Sharne Pupuke-Robati (Auckland Counties Manukau)
• Briarley Rogers (Tauranga City Basketball Association)
• Rosalia Samia (Basketball Hawkes Bay)
• Tessalonia Talo-Tomokino (Harbour Basketball)
• Lori McDaniel – Head Coach
• Jody Cameron – Assistant Coach
• Gina Farmer – Assistant Coach
• Ushma Shah – Manager
• Tegan Tapara – Physiotherapist
• Delwyn Whale – Head of Delegation
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