The Tall Ferns tore up the form book on Wednesday in Gijon beating Spain, the number three ranked team in the world, 54-52.
This was a significant result for the Kiwis just days out from the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France next week. It was the type of game, a defensive arm wrestle, that the Ferns need to lock into if they are to enjoy success next week and beyond.
Not blessed with outstanding scorers low scoring contests, keeping teams to 60 points or below is the route to success for this group, a team that possesses a number of lock-down defenders.
France on their home court in Nantes next week will be tough, maybe too tough, but Cuba the next day is now looking more intriguing. The fixture has taken on a completely different picture with not only the success against Spain but also the fact that Cuba were hammered 83-40 by the Spaniards three days ago.
Spain scored the first 5 points of the game but then the Tall Ferns, courtesy of scores from Jillian Harmon, Micaela Cocks, Penina Davidson and Toni Edmondson reeled off 10 straight points to lead 15-9 at quarter time.
Threes from Cocks and Chevannah Paalvast in the second period helped keep the Ferns in the ascendancy at half time leading 27-22.
The forward trio of Davidson, Paalvast and Harmon accumulated 25 rebounds to give the Kiwis parity on the boards and with Paalvast, promoted to the starting five, nailing 6 points in the third period the lead was extended to 43-32 at three-quarter time.
As expected Spain came surging back in the final quarter but a brace of triples from Cocks and Edmondson kept the Ferns in front and although Edmondson fouled out the Tall Ferns held on to take a notable scalp ahead of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France next week.
The two teams meet again tomorrow, the last game for each team ahead of the OQT.
Naturally Tall Ferns head coach Kennedy Kereama was very satisfied with the performance of his team.
“I am really proud of our efforts today to beat third ranked Spain. It was a true defensive job and all players were locked in and focused for fourty minutes.
“ These moments are pretty special but it only lasts a short time because we have to back up and play them again tomorrow. We need to show that this was no fluke and we can also improve on this game. We need to grind teams down with our defence and keep teams to low scores if we want to compete with the best.
“All the players were great today and its hard to single anyone out, it was a true team effort.”
Tall Ferns 54 – Harmon 14pts/10rebs, Cocks 12, Davidson 9/8, Paalvast 9/8, Edmondson 7, Beck 1, Rooney 1, Purcell 1