The fourth and final day of play at the Women’s FIBA Under 16 Oceania Championship featured the two medal games.
At stake in the gold medal game was a place at the FIBA Under 17 World Championship to be held in Spain in June 2016.
Australia had beaten New Zealand by thirty points in the round robin game played between the two teams earlier in tournament but New Zealand gave a highly creditable performance in the final before eventually losing 75-54. The winning margin didn’t tell the full story as New Zealand trailed by just three points with
New Zealand forward Charlotte Whittaker scored the first point of the game from the foul line and with four first quarter rebounds led a strong defensive effort from the home side that trailed 16-11 at the break.
New Zealand fought back strongly in the second quarter powered by triples from Tiarna Clarke, twice, and Sapphire Wairau to take the lead 22-19 four minutes into the period. Thereafter the margin remained close with Australia in the ascendancy 27-25 at half-time.
Centres Eziyoda Magbegor and Whittaker enjoyed a terrific tussle in the half, both players collecting 6 rebounds as they fought for dominance in the paint.
Abby Cubillo scored the first three for Australia four minutes into the third period to give the visitors a 35-31 advantage after Clarke had nailed back to back triples for New Zealand. Australia looked as if they could pull away from the hosts at any stage but the team in black hung onto the gold shirttails and when the classy Leger-Walker stole the ball and fed Whittaker for the basket New Zealand led 45-42 late in the period.
Australia responded with a couple of steals and scores to lead 48-47 with 10 minutes to play.
Quick baskets from Magbegor, twice and Cubillo prompted a time out from Jody Cameron early in the fourth stanza. The defining period in the game came immediately after the timeout as Australia, via Magbegor, scored twice again to establish a 10 point advantage 58-48.
Thereafter Australia showed their quality, controlled the tempo and closed out the game to book their passage to Spain.
Point guard Cubillo (14pts) and Magbegor (23pts/16rebs) were outstanding for Australia with Clake (16pts), Whittaker (5pts/8rebs) and classy 13 year old Leger-Walker, daughter of former Tall Ferns captain Leanne Walker, terrific for New Zealand. Leger Walker, the youngest player on the court produced the stunning stats line of 16pts/7rebs/2 assists/4 steals/1 block.
All in all a terrific effort from coach Jody Cameron and her charges.