Game one of the Christchurch Casino International Women’s Basketball Series between Japan and the Tall Ferns, played at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch resulted in a win for the visitors 75-58.
Tall Ferns head coach Kennedy Kereama opted to start the game with the youthful line up of Kalani Purcell, Tessa Boagni, Jordan Hunter, Penina Davidson and Chevannah Paalvast.
The Tall Ferns were out the blocks the quickest taking an early 6-1 lead as Paalvast and Boagni scored courtesy of Hunter assists before the point guard scored herself.
The Japanese came storming back into the game but Purcell made the final basket of a fast and furious first quarter to tie the scores at 17 apiece.
Micaela Cocks, replacing Hunter in the point guard spot, opened the scoring in the second period that saw the introduction of Kapiti Coast guard Jacinta Beckley for her first taste of international basketball.
The home team then gave up some baskets in transition plus a triple to Chinatsu Yamamoto necessitating a Tall Ferns timeout trailing 28-21. The stoppage had the desired effect for the Kiwis as the Japanese scoring slowed, Purcell and Craig scored in the paint and Taylor converted from a back door cut to keep things tight at half-time. Japan just ahead 37-31.
Cantabrian Tessa Boagni gave the 1,000 strong home crowd plenty to cheer early in the third period as the young centre made the opening score of the second half and then swatted away a Japanese scoring attempt.
The Tall Ferns offence stuttered in the middle stages of the stanza before Stella Beck, Purcell, Cocks and Samara Gallaher made baskets to bring the Tall Ferns to within ten points, 54-44 with 2:06 left in the period.
Japanese sharp shooter Yamamoto had the final say of the period knocking down consecutive triples to break open the game 60-44 entering the final 10 minutes.
Cocks opened the scoring in the final quarter with a three but the impressive Yamamoto replied with her fifth triple of the game – all her 15 points coming from behind the three point arc (5/5 3PG).
The Tall Ferns were unable to threaten the Japanese lead in the final stages but the coaching staff will have been pleased with the efforts of younger players Boagni (7pts/3rebs/2blocks), Purcell (7pts/10rebs/5assists) and Gallaher (6pts/6rebs).
The Tall Ferns got the better of the rebounding count 45-34, committed a few too many turnovers (17) and shot just 2 from 13 triples (both to Cocks) compared with Japan’s 7 from 18 .
The Tall Ferns coaching staff made a conscious decision prior to the encounter to reduce the minutes played in the game by the trio of senior players. Micaela Cocks still managed to top score with16 points despite playing just 21 minutes but Natalie Taylor and Lisa Wallbutton only played a total of 14 minutes.
All three will probably play bigger minutes in the second test at Cowles Stadium, 7pm on Friday but with the two game Olympic qualifying series against Australia just 8 days away their workloads will be monitored closely.
Tall Ferns 58 – Cocks 16p, Purcell 7p/10r, Boagni 7p, Gallaher 6p/6r.
Japan 75 – Yamamoto 15p, Motokawa 14p.