Loe Down - JTB's Get One
Loe finished with a game-high 25 points and filled his stats-line as the JTBs secured the country’s first-ever win at a FIBA U19 tournament with a 93-75 win over Syria in the 13th-16th classification at ASB Stadium.
The 2.11m (6ft 11in) centre from Auckland’s North Shore was a dominant figure around the court, shooting 7-of-10 from the field, including 3-of-4 on long-range attempts, and 8-of-13 from the foul-line, all while grabbing nine rebounds, four steals, four assists and two blocks in 34 minutes.
His showdown with Syria’s 2.27m (7ft 5in) giant Abd Al Wahad Al Hamowi was as one-sided as the game overall.
The win was New Zealand’s first at a FIBA world championship since the Tall Blacks defeated Panama 86-75 in group play at the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan and first at a FIBA age-group tournament since New Zealand beat China 85-66 for 11th place at the 1997 FIBA U23 World Championship in Australia.
“I was saying to the boys that the monkey on our backs was so big it had turned into a gorilla,” Junior Tall Blacks head coach Kenny McFadden said.
“It feels great. We’ve been peaking through the window of success, and even in that first game had a foot in there. It’s great to get in the winner’s circle for the first time, especially for the boys.
“We came here wanting to get some respect and I think we’ve got that. But there’s a difference between gaining respect and actually winning games, so it was good to finally get a win.”
The Junior Tall Blacks took over the game in the final five minutes of the third period, scoring 16 straight points to turn a 10-point game into a 26-point margin with a quarter to run. Loe had eight points, including a break-away three at the buzzer, during that stretch.
New Zealand, who lost games to Argentina, Croatia and Kazakhstan by a combined 16 points in group play, stretched the gap out to 32 points, 91-59, with 5:19 remaining before they eased off in the run home.
McFadden was able to go to his bench early, using all 12 players, with forward Tom Rowe seeing his first minutes and points of the tournament, while Riki Buckrell also impressed with nine points off the bench.
Forward Richie Edwards finished with 17 points (6/10 FG, 2/2 3pt, 3/3 FT) and seven rebounds, while captain Dion Prewster had 11 points (4/10 FG, 2/4 3pt, 1/2 FT) and five boards. Guard Brook Ruscoe also scored nine points as New Zealand shot 49 percent (33/68) from the floor and 50 percent (9/18) on three-point attempts.
Syria, led by 15 points from Tarek Al Jabe, finished the game on a 16-2 run with the result in no doubt.
A three-point play from forward Edwards quickly gave New Zealand a 17-point lead early in the second quarter, 42-25, but they let off on defence, allowing Syria the next 12 points, and were sloppy on offence, going scoreless for five minutes until Prewster finished a spin move in the post.
The Syrians closed within five points, 44-39, but the host nation finished the half strong with a 7-2 run to be 10 points up.
“We started well again but then in the second quarter we lacked execution, both at the offensive and defensive ends,” McFadden said. “And we went into the locker room at halftime and there were some harsh words said.”
In almost complete contrast to their Saturday night effort against Kazakhstan, the JTBs came out firing, with Edwards and Prewster combining to hit three straight triples to start the game. The Kiwis hit their first five shots from the field as they ran out to a 14-2 lead after two minutes.
The Syrians did not go away, scrapping their way from as many as 18 points down in the opening period to trail by 12 at the quarter break.
The Junior Tall Blacks close out their tournament against Angola, 62-53 winners over Iran in the other 13th-16th classification game, for 13th on Tuesday, tip-off 1.30pm at ASB Stadium.
FIBA U19 World Championship
Monday, July 6
New Zealand Junior Tall Blacks 93 (Rob Loe 25, Richie Edwards 17, Dion Prewster 11) Syria 75 (Tarek Al Jabe 15, Orwa Al Shatti 14, Belal Gneed 12, Mahmoud Osfira 12)
HT: 51-41 (18-20)
3Q: 79-53 (28-12)
FT: 93-75 (14-22)