Emus too good for JTBs
Australia are in the driver’s seat to retain both FIBA Oceania U19 Championship titles, after their Emus overpowered the Junior Tall Blacks 85-64 at Porirua’s Te Rauparaha Arena tonight.
Following the Gem’s tough win over the Junior Tall Ferns earlier in the programme, the Aussie men wore down their opponents, outscoring them 30-13 in the third quarter and finally achieving dominance in most facets of play.
Forward Dante Exum led the Emus with 17 points, while Jack Lopez’s 12 points were all gathered from beyond the arc. Centre Dane Pineau had a double double of 12 points/10 rebounds.
Point guard Matt Lacey scored 18 points – half of them in the final quarter – while captain Reuben Te Rangi managed 15.
Like the women before them, the Junior Tall Blacks come out strong with Melbourne-based forward Andrew Kennerley leading the charge. He had his side ahead 10-9 and Te Rangi struck from long range to bring them level at 17-17.
Kennerley and Te Rangi, who had just completed an ANBL pre-season tour with the NZ Breakers, put them ahead again early in the second quarter, before a pair of three-pointers from Lopez restored the advantage to Australia.
But the Kiwis had made their point – where past teams might have crumbled, these guys were made of sterner stuff and weren’t inclined to go away.
In fact, at halftime, the teams were still locked at 36-36. Australia had created more chances – forcing 12 turnovers and grabbing nine offensive rebounds – they had allowed their rivals to stay in the contest mainly from the free-throw line, where the JTBs converted 11/15.
With the limited opportunities, New Zealand were executing well, almost gaining parity in the pain despite giving away a size advantage and shooting 60% from the field.
Upon the resumption, the Emus threatened to break the game wide open defensively, pressuring the ball up the court and constructing a 10-2 run. The margin finally entered double figures when Lopez struck from the arc again.
When Lopez hit his fourth trey, Australia had put on 14 unanswered points and put the contest beyond the Kiwis’ reach.
By the time, Kennerley fouled out in the first minute of the final period, the Emus had their bench on and the Junior Tall Blacks were in damage control. Actually, they were doing somewhat better than that, threatening to break back within single figures and forcing the Aussies to re-introduce their guns.
They got to within 10 and Te Rangi had a chance draw closer, but missed a dunk and that was as closer as it got. Emus guard Gerard Martin sank a three soon after and when Emmett Naar had another with 1m 57s left, the gap was 20 points.
In the final analysis, Australia were simply too good all over the court. They dominated the boards, out-rebounding their counterparts 21-17 under their own basket and forcing them into 26 turnovers.
They put up 30 more shots from the field, converted on nine three’s – really, the charity stripe was the only place the JTBs emerged on top (17/26).
“We competed for two quarters – that shows we can compete against a superstar team – but we made some mental lapses,” assessed NZ coach Deslea Wrathall.
“We missed that dunk that would have got us close again, and then started to get a bit mesmerised and started ball-watching on defence.”
New Zealand must now regroup before Game Two of the three-game series, scheduled for 6pm Thursday.
Junior Tall Blacks 64 (Matt Lacey 18, Reuben Te Rangi 15, Andrew Kennerley 12) Australian Emus 85
HT 36-36 (16-13)
Q3 49-66 (13-30)
FT 64-85 (15-19)