A win is a win, especially when it is your opening game at the FIBA U19 World Cup, so the Anchor Junior Tall Blacks coaching staff are understandably taking the positives from their first up 88-81 victory over world number 15 ranked South Korea in Cairo overnight New Zealand time.
A final quarter flourish led by Quinn Clinton and Tai Wynyard got the young New Zealand side home over the higher ranked Koreans in Pool A, but excessive turnovers and a poor return from the charity stripe looked to have stymied their chances through the first three quarters.
Head Coach Daryl Cartwright was delighted with the response of his side as they turned on the pressure in the final five minutes to overcome a 9-point deficit to eventually win comfortably.
“Parts of the game weren’t up to how we want to play, guys went away from the game plan and didn’t execute but Korea are ranked 15th in the world and we came in 30th. I think a lot of people dismiss them because of who they are rather than looking at the ranking and records, they are a very good team and have played a lot more international competition than us so they were never going to give us the game and made us scrap and fight the whole way, but we found some composure down the stretch and played to our strengths.”
Cartwright did not shy away from those areas of concern, with free throw shooting (17/33) and turnovers (28) the key areas to look at.
“We haven’t shot the ball well from the charity stripe on tour, it is one of those things you don’t want to keep harping on about but it has been a focus in training. It was an ugly number percentage wise and we have left a lot of points on the floor, but the main thing was we made the shots when it counted and put the game out of reach of Korea.
“Turnovers were unacceptable, especially in the third quarter where they put some pressure on us and we didn’t respond. They were getting away with a lot of contact, but we need to play to how the referees are officiating the game and do a better job of looking after the ball.”
Cartwright highlighted Isaac Letoa and the Tai Wynard post game, with Wynyard having to sit for most of the first half after picking up two quick fouls.
“Isaac had a great game, he started strong and was key down the stretch. Tai got in early foul trouble and with two quick ones we couldn’t risk him picking up a third in the first half. For the most part we were controlling the temp while he was on the bench, but Korea made a little run and we managed the rotation to get Tai out of that potential third foul situation and allowed him to play aggressive and strong in the second half. He dominated inside and made his presence felt with some key buckets.”
Cartwright and his coaching staff are under no illusions as to the enormity of the task, but welcomes the chance to take on the best in the world.
“In a World Cup, to get the first win in the pool gives you some momentum. We have a tough pool, I mentioned Korea at 15, tomorrow we play France ranked 9 and then Argentina ranked 7. Both are big teams, have an average age of 19 and many of them play in professional competitions. Both will be a big test of our guys but one they have to enjoy the challenge of taking on that talent and experience.”
Anchor Junior Tall Blacks 88
Wynyard 22/6r, Letoa 14/5a, Clinton 12/6r, Sam Waardenburg 8/5a, Josh Aitcheson 8, T Samuel 8, C McRae 4, T Cameron 4, A McWilliam 4/5r, H McDonald 2, F Cameron 2/5r
South Korea 81
Han 20, Kim 14