The Anchor Junior Tall Blacks threw off the shackles in a dominant performance at the FIBA U19 World Cup in Cairo this morning, defeating Mali 87-63, posting the biggest winning margin of any game on the day.
The win was built on the back of a stellar performance from Wellingtonian Taane Samuel, the athletic big man posting 24 points and 9 rebounds and getting great support from fellow big Tai Wynyard (17 & 13).
Head Coach Daryl Cartwright was proud of his charges tonight, as they showed great character after a tough week in Cairo.
“It has been a tough week, with three close losses where we have been in those games and not get the results. Today we felt we needed a dominant performance, we wanted to put the game away by halftime and avoid a dogfight. We played good team basketball and were able to build a lead through our execution as well as defensive pressure.”
Samuel stepped up when given his opportunity as Sam Waardenburg found himself in early foul trouble and would go on to play just 10 minutes, thanks largely to the productivity of Samuel.
“Sam got into foul trouble and then struggled to get into rhythm tonight and Taane played well off the bench and was our leading scorer, so we got more minutes out of him and we didn’t need to play Sam so much in the four spot and gave us the chance to play Angus McWilliam a bit more tonight and Callum also in those forward positions.”
Cartwright said his players had shown great resolve to put the disappointment of earlier in the week behind them. Plus it helped with the roster being as close to fully fit and healthy as they have been all tournament, finally shaking the effects of the stomach virus thanks largely to the rest day.
“We had moved on from that, tonight was about not being complacent, we needed to prove that we were in those close games with the top teams for a reason, that we are a quality side. We might have missed the top eight but we wanted to make a point that we feel there is separation from our team and the likes of Mali and wanted to show that on the scoreboard with a dominant performance. Tonight was about being mentally focused, not coming out flat. We wanted to put them away, play well and prove a point to ourselves as well. Winning this game puts us in the bracket for 9 to 12, we have a goal of getting that ninth place and we need to win one more game to give ourselves a shot at that.”
Cartwright was not overly concerned about an outside shooting percentage of just 24% (4 of 17), with the main focus tonight being work in the paint.
“It was a dominant performance by Taane and Tai inside. It is nice when we get that production from our bigs, we need to play inside out, that is our strength to open up space for our shooters. While some of the shots we took weren’t great – we didn’t run a lot of sets for outside looks tonight so that percentage is not too much of a concern as a lot of it was end of shot clock situations.”
Others to shine for the New Zealanders were guards Quinn Clinton and Isaac Letoa, with Clinton finding his shooting form securing 11 points on just six shots, while Letoa had a game high nine assists as he found his scorers in the paint, with Flynn Cameron also dishing off five dimes.
Next up at 2am tomorrow morning for the Anchor supported side is Puerto Rico, a tough challenge but one with big rewards, with a place in the 9th 10th match on the line for the winner.
“We play Puerto Rico next, I am watching tape of their game against Germany and they challenged them. They were only three points back in the fourth quarter before the score blew out. They will be tough, they are smaller than us and guard orientated so it will be a job to stop their offence from their guards and use the strength of our bigs against them.”
Anchor Junior Tall Blacks 87
Samuel 24/ 9r, Wynyard 17/13r, Clinton 11, Letoa 7/9a, Aitcheson 7, F Cameron 5/5a, McWilliam 4, McRae 4, McDonald 3, T Cameron 3, Waardenburg 2
Traore 19, Keita 12