The NZ team were dealt a major blow before the start of their classification game at the Australian State Championships in Melbourne on Friday. Forward Sharne Pupuke-Robati was ruled out of the contest against Victoria Country Women with an ankle injury.
Despite being without the tournament’s leading rebounder New Zealand made a solid start to lead 22-13 at quarter time.
Jordyn Maddix made a couple of threes as she and Charlisse Leger-Walker accumulated 8 points each.
Forward Rashaan Smith made 6 quick points but the Kiwis found their lead wiped out in the second period and entered the half time interval behind 35-34.
Ella Bradley and Gracie Hasler-Ewin restored the New Zealand advantage as both teams grappled for the lead. Rosalia Samia landed a three for the Kiwis but that sparked a decisive 10-2 run from Victoria Country who closed the third 57-48 ahead.
Leger-Walker nailed a three to keep the Vic lead to manageable proportions but a series of missed free throws undermined the Kiwis attempt to make a comeback. Briarley Rogers made a three and Leger-Walker converted her fourth trey of the game but Vic still led 68-57 with just under four minutes to play.
Bradley got it back to 9 points but that was as close as New Zealand got, Victoria Country recording an 81-68 win.
Despite Pupuke-Robati’s absence the Kiwis only trailed the rebounding count 43-39. However making just 4 from 12 free throws and being on the receiving end of a 10-0 blocked shots stat helped consign New Zealand to a loss. The result means the Kiwis will play for seventh and eighth on Saturday, the final day of competition.
NZ Scorers: Charlisse Leger-Walker 20/7, Ella Bradley 11, Jordyn Maddix 8, Rosalia Samia 7/5, Rashaan Smith 6, Briarley Rogers 6, Gracie Hasler-Ewin 4/11, Isabelle Cook 4, Caitlin O’Connell 2