30 Jul 2015

Tall Blacks beaten at the buzzer

10:26 am on 30 July 2015

The New Zealand men's basketball coach Paul Henare says they got the type of game they were hoping for as they went down 70-68 to Croatia in the latest game on their European tour.

The Tall Blacks forward Isaac Fotu in action.

The Tall Blacks forward Isaac Fotu in action. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Croatia led for most of the game and took an 11 point lead into the final quarter before a remarkable Tall Blacks fightback lifted New Zealand into contention.

Trailing by six points with less than two minutes to play the Tall Blacks forced turnovers and fought hard on offence to take a one point lead with just 53 seconds remaining.

However the comeback wasn't to be with Croatia nailing a three-pointer on the full-time buzzer to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Henare says there was a huge lift in intensity from their games against Great Britain at the weekend.

He says the Croations came out with a lot of fire and passion which is just what they needed at this stage of their campaign, a tough test.

Henare says they failed to hold onto the ball with 24 turnovers which they'll have to work on, but he was delighted with their fightback.

In a game that saw the effort spread Corey Webster stood out offensively with a game leading 19 and had great support from the bigs with Mika Vukona (10pts, 9boards), Rob Loe (9pts, 4 boards) and Issac Fotu (9pts).

Tom Abercrombie felt the full force of the Croatian muscle, coming down from on high and landing awkwardly, avoiding a serious injury but copping a cut to the chin that required 3 stitches before he returned to the game.

Shea Ili made a good fist of his debut, the point guard did not contribute hugely on the stat sheet but will have grown enormously from his involvement in such a game played at a white hot pace.

The Tall Blacks now travel to Slovenia for the final match of their 3-game European tour, which takes place tomorrow morning (NZ time).

The New Zealanders then head to a three-team tournament in China early next month, before returning home for the two-game Oceania Olympic qualifying series against Australia, which starts in Melbourne on August 15th and finishes in Wellington on August 18th.

Meanwhile the New Zealand women's basketball team was beaten by Asian opposition for the third time in as many days at the William Jones Cup in Taiwan, losing 75-56 to South Korea.

Tall Ferns coach Kennedy Kereama is also looking beyond this week as he prepares his charges for the Olympic Qualifying series against Australia next month.

Following the Wiliam Jones Cup the team return for a three test series against Japan in Christchurch.

The Tall Ferns will then contest the FIBA Oceania Series against Australia, in Melbourne on August 15 and Tauranga on August 17.

The winner of this series earns direct entry to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

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