3 Sep 2009

Australia clean sweep Tall Ferns

6:17 am on 3 September 2009

World women's basketball champions Australia have kept their title defence on course by beating New Zealand 97-57 in Canberra to retain the Oceania title and capture the zone's sole qualifying spot at next year's global tournament.

The Tall Ferns, including eight rookies, showed a measure of progress from their 50-point loss in the opening encounter in Porirua on Monday, but never got close to the Australians.

Coach Shawn Dennis says their execution on offence was genuinely a lot better, but in the end Australia are a class act and showed why they have stayed around the top of the world rankings for so long.

Australia became the eighth nation to qualify for the 16-team world championship draw, joining hosts the Czech Republic, Olympic champions the United States, and European powers France, Russia, Spain, Belarus and Greece.

The Tall Ferns must turn their sights towards the 2012 London Olympics, but now have a squad that should carry the women's programme for the next decade.

Dennis says the big thing for them is to help these young girls get the consistent training they need and some exposure to international basketball, while also involving those players who weren't here this year.