Day 4 - Men's Qualifying Final - New Zealand 70 def Tahiti 48
With temperatures tipping a stifling 34 degrees in the stadium, the conditions for New Zealand’s cross over match were already in favour of their opponents, Tahiti.
Each attempted to gain a psychological advantage, with respective teams bellowing out spirited Hakka’s.
Both teams traded early three-pointers, signalling that a tight match was to ensue.
New Zealand’s early time out was call for a tactical change as Tahiti took an initial lead and looked dangerous.
Tahiti set to shut down tall timber New Zealand’s Jack Salt (6 points, 8 rebounds), with a tight zone defence, but his side still managed 23 first half rebounds.
Both teams were guilty of 9 turnovers in the first half but late foul shots helped steady New Zealand.
Cool heads prevailed in the second quarter, as New Zealand weathered the initial barrage from Tahiti, and earning themselves a buffer on the scoreboard.
Winding down to half time, New Zealand point guard Jayden Bezzant (8 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) expertly ran down the clock, exposing Raymond Penny (16 points, including 4 three-pointers) for an open shot, taking their lead to 14 points at the main break (23-37), with 40 per cent from long range the difference.
A gutsy drive from Tahitian guard Tepoea Teurua (7 points, 6 rebounds) tried to spark his side into a third quarter resurgence.
New Zealand had a momentary lapse late in the third quarter, and the Tahitian quick hands capitalised on any mistakes, converting 16 points from turnovers.
In a highly skilful display from both teams, Tahiti’s speed and finesse was no match for New Zealand’s sheer size and bulk.
A huge rejection from New Zealand’s Denhym Brooke (7 points) late in the final quarter cemented his side’s win and contention for this year’s title.
In an impressive all round performance, including a total of 16 assists, New Zealand ran out winners 48-70.
Laura Mock – The Reporters’ Academy.