3X3 title defence dashed
New Zealand haven’t managed to retain their FIBA 3×3 World Youth Championship title, but it took eventual winners Serbia to eliminate the plucky Kiwis in the quarterfinals at Alcobendas, Spain.
Keep up with progress at the FIBA World 3×3 Youth Championships here.
Faced with a repechage route into the knockout stages, the titleholders upset hosts Spain 17-11 to make the quarterfinals, but had to front up less than an hour later to take on the Serbs, whom they had beaten at the same stage 12 months earlier.
Under the Spanish sun – the event was staged outdoors – and on the third day of competition, the Kiwis could not raise the energy to overcome their European rivals, falling 11-17.
“This was simply a bridge too far,” said coach Anthony Corban. “Serbia were pumped and we hung in there gallantly.
“I can’t fault the commitment of our squad this day, but playing two games within an hour was physically impossible.”
Serbia went on to defeat France (17-15) in the semifinals and then toppled the United States 21-20 in overtime.
New Zealand took the inaugural title in Rimini, Italy, last year with a line-up consisting of Tall Black Isaac Fotu, Tai Webster (who has since become a Tall Black), current Junior Tall Blacks captain Reuben Te Rangi and James Ashby.
This time, they were always up against the odds after managing just a 4-3 record in pool play and sneaking through to Day Three on a points-differential countback. Two of those losses came in controversial circumstances – the two-point defeat by Poland included several disputed calls and the Kiwis were forced to play the final moments with just two players after Alex Talma and Derone Raukawa both fouled out.
The one-point loss to Canada came off a buzzer-beater from the North Americans.
New Zealand also drew the toughest pool of the tournament – France would eventually beat Canada in the bronze-medal playoff.
“The trip has been worthwhile,” assessed Corban. “A stack of college scouts were here and gave some positive feedback in terms of helping our school leavers in 2012 achieve their life dream of an academic/sporting scholarship in the USA.”
The team arrives back in New Zealand on Wednesday, in time for Raukawa, Talma and Jay Gerrand to join their teams at the NZ Secondary School Championships in Nelson.
FIBA 3×3 World Youth Championships
Jay Gerrand (North Harbour), Ana Haku (North Harbour), Derone Raukawa (Waitakere West Auckland), Alex Talma (North Harbour)
Coach: Anthony Corban
Beat Belize 20-9
Beat Slovakia 13-7
Lost to Poland 15-17
Beat Netherlands 21-7
Lost to France 15-20
Lost to Canada 15-16
Beat China 22-8
Beat Spain 17-13
Lost to Serbia 11-17