The Junior Tall Ferns recorded a resounding 72-54 win against Poland U23 in Yuqing on Saturday. The Ferns had been threatening a win in earlier games but it was in the second half of this sixth game in seven days that everything fell into place.
New Zealand led 21-18 at quarter time but were pegged back in the second trailing 37-36 at the main break.
The JTF’s ramped up the effort in the second half and completely dominated the Poles to the tune of 36-17.
Coach Brent Matehaere was delighted with his team, “It was an awesome win tonight over the Poland U23 side. The team stuck to the game plan and executed it so well. The score reflects a 36 point turn around from game one against them”.
The Poles were not only older than the teenage Kiwis but also had a considerable height advantage with eight players over six feet. Despite this the JTF’s still won the rebounding count 34-29.
Once again the Ferns were paced by Charlisse Leger-Walker who stuffed the stats line with18pts, 3 rebs, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block. The 14 year old also shot the ball well hitting all six free throws and converting 6 from 11 from the field. The Waikato guard was well supported at the offensive end by the Harbour pair of Zara Jillings (15pts) and Tiarna Clarke (11pts).
Eye witness account from Melanie Bennett (Team Manager)
The Junior Tall Ferns ‘Pol’ished the European contingent on the second leg of the Four Nations Tour of China gaining an impressive first win of the tour.
Charlisse Leger-Walker again stepped up to lead the Junior Tall Ferns with 18 points and Zara Jillings and Tiarna Clarke also scored double figures – Jillings shooting an impressive 4/5 (80%) inside the arc.
The key to success was the huge defensive effort putting the Poles under extreme pressure right from tip off.
The JTF’s were in a fight for the first half, up by 3 at the end of the first quarter, and down by 1 at the half. The third quarter was the turning point, where we outscored them 23-10. The Poles were forced to take an early time out to try and stop momentum, however the JTF’s came out even stronger and defensively caused the Europeans to turn the ball over, grabbing 11 steals, with a 70% conversion rate down the stretch.
The JTFs have bonded really well off the floor, and it is evident by the heart and passion shown in tonight’s game. It was like watching rugby players dive on the ground for the loose ball. The girls put their bodies on the line and hustled like their lives depended on it.
The effort and tenacity led by Alyssa Hirawani and Clarke created a domino effect for the rest of the team. The top rebounders were Charlotte Whittaker, Darcy Finnigan and Katie Diakhaby with 6 each.
Coaches Matehaere and Davidson should be extremely proud of how well the girls adjusted to pre-game scouts and preparation. The major adjustments were on-ball defense, and full court defense after scores, and tweaking to the offensive sets at training this morning.
The JTFs would like to take this opportunity to thank both Stacey and Summer, our interpreters for Yuqing County.
Poland Under 23’s 54
JTF”s 72 – Leger Walker 18/3rebs/2assists, Jillings 15/1/1a/1st, Clarke 11/1/1stl, Finnigan 8/6/2st, Whittaker 6/6, Hirawani 4/1/2/4st, Ruske 4/3/2/3st, Diakaby 2/6/1stl, Dunn 2/4, Baudry 2, Penese 0/3.
The team now travels to Weng’an on Sunday to undertake the third and last leg of the Chinese tour. The team and support staff will travel in good spirits but will be hoping to see a little sunshine after battling the smog in Foshan and more recently the cloud shrouded Yuqing.