A poor second quarter proved costly as the Anchor Junior Tall Blacks were defeated 74-70 by South American powerhouse Argentina at the FIBA U19 World Cup this morning, New Zealand time.
A 16-29 second quarter aside, the young Kiwis were much improved, winning the rebound count 60-43 and improving their accuracy from the free throw line to 66%, but despite winning the second half by 11 points, the margin was too big to overhaul.
Best for the Kiwis were point guard Quinn Clinton (19 points and 12 rebounds), Sam Waardenburg (15 and 10), Isaac Letoa (13 and 5) and Tane Samuel (12 points) in another all-round team effort that had them going toe to toe with the world #9 ranked Argentinians for the majority of the match.
Head Coach Daryl Cartwright was left to rue that poor period in the game after his side appeared to have done their homework effectively.
“We started really well, all of our practice preparation and videos were focused on the mental side of things, turnovers and free throws were something we challenged the guys to improve and we did that for most parts. But unfortunately, we buttoned off a little and Argentina made some shots and got their tails up and we dug a hole we couldn’t come back from.”
Cartwright said the talent is there, it is just the consistency that is lacking from his impressive young group of players.
“We had a good buildup in China but getting exposed to tough games week in week out is hard for New Zealand teams because of our location and the challenge in bringing our group back together. But we have shown we are good enough in this tournament, but the margin is small between being a good team and great team and we have been great in parts but the consistency is the difference for us in being 3 and 0 in this pool and now being 1 and 2.”
Clinton and Letoa again led the guard line superbly, going a combined 32 points and 17 rebounds with the team improved in looking after the ball, with 16 turnovers in a game played at high tempo.
“They played well, we have had a bit of a challenge with over half the team being sick the past two days with s stomach virus. It was a good test of our resilience and we spoke about it and had to find a way to overcome not feeling the greatest and being a bit run down, I think we did that. After the game it was mixed emotions, I was proud of our fight but I thought we could have controlled the game better than we did in patches. It is within us to do that, but we need all guys when they step on the floor to contribute every possession and we had some breakdowns that cost us in the end.”
The New Zealanders were also dealing with adversity of a more serious nature, wearing armbands as a mark of respect to their team mate Tane Samuel, with news of the Samuel family suffering a bereavement reaching the team just prior to their game against France. The team in Egypt and all at Basketball New Zealand send their condolences and prayers to the family at this time.
The team will now face off against another giant of the game in Germany in the round of 16 tomorrow morning, with the time to be confirmed.
New Zealand 70
Clinton 19 points and 12 rebounds, Waardenburg 15 / 10, Letoa 13 / 5, Samuel 12 points
Solanas 16, Lopez 14, Caffaro 11
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