The Junior Tall Blacks (JTB’s) pulled off a stunning victory in the final of the FIBA Under 18 Oceania Championships in Fiji on Saturday evening defeating favorites Australia 57-51.
The Junior Tall Blacks become the first New Zealand age group team to qualify for a FIBA World Championships and to do so against our powerful, well funded nearest rivals makes the victory sweeter. The JTB’s will now head to Cairo next for the FIBA Under 19 World Championships
The heroes for the JTB’s in the closing two minutes were Canterbury guard Quinn Clinton and Wellington forward Taane Samuel. With the game on a knife edge Clinton landed two threes in the final 90 seconds as the JTB’s twice came from behind. His second three produced a slender 53-51 advantage. Clinton had been fouled on the shot but missed the resulting freebie only for Samuel to score on a put back.
After Australia missed a couple of scoring opportunities Samuel iced the game with a pair of free throws to set off wild celebrations amongst the New Zealand team and supporters.
Defence dominated the early stages and it was two minutes into the game before Quinn Clinton, later to be named Grand Final MVP, scored the first basket of the encounter.
Callum Mcrae scored the next basket for the Kiwis and the big Kiwi centre was also prominent at the defensive end with three rebounds and a block in the quarter.
A tight first period ended with New Zealand 12-8 ahead.
A Sam Waardenburg put back got the scoreboard moving in the second stanza and a Taki Fahrensohn three took New Zealand to a 17-10 lead forcing a concerned Australian coach to call a timeout.
Hamish McDonald connected with a triple followed by a jump shot as New Zealand moved to a 24-16 lead. An excellent first half defensive effort from the JTB’s finished with them ahead 27-20. Waardenburg led all scorers and rebounders at the interval with 7 points and 6 boards.
A pair of Clinton triples took the JTB’s to a double digit advantage but Australia responded with a 10-0 run. That run was broken by Taane Samuel but a strong Australian third period ended with the JTB’s just three points ahead, 40-37.
Flynn Cameron scored with a left handed drive but another Australia run took Australia into the lead 44-42 with 7 minutes to play.
Waardenburg tied the scores only for Australia to reclaim the advantage and with 4:20 to play the Kiwis trailed 48-40. The Kiwis offence had gone cold but a turn around jumper by Samuel moved the JTB’s within two points, 48-46, with three to play.
After that it became the Clinton and Samuel show.
Basketball New Zealand Chief Executive Iain Potter described the victory as, “A great achievement by the team and the coaching staff and an historic moment for New Zealand basketball. The win once again highlights the enormous amount of talent that we have emerging from our national and local development programmes.”
Final Score; Junior Tall Blacks 57 Australia 51
Scorers – Clinton 14, Samuel 11, Waardenburg 11 + 12 rebounds, McDonald 5, F Cameron 4, McRae 3, Fahrensohn 3, T Cameron 2, Aitcheson 2, Letoa 1, Fotu 1