The New Zealand men's basketball team has beaten Venezuela 72-65 in their opening game at the Stankovic Cup tournament in China.
The Tall Blacks opened the game with a 12-0 run before the Venezuelans got back into the game and the New Zealanders only drew away for the win in the final quarter.
Coach Paul Henare was pleased with the result and the finish to the game, but not the early going.
"We got the job done and any win should be enjoyed, we have worked hard on this tour and deserved to be on the right side of the result tonight. However, we were guilty of underestimating the opposition and allowed them to get their confidence up and stay in the game for longer than perhaps they should have.
"But I was pleased with the reaction of the guys, the way a younger group set things up in the final quarter for the more experienced group to finish it was encouraging. We did sit two of our leaders tonight in Tom (Abercrombie) and Mika (Vukona) and at times that showed, not that this was a reflection on those on the floor, more it is about how important they are to our team."
By halftime the Venezuelans had turned the tide and in fact taken the lead at 36-33, with the New Zealanders offensive output drying up to the tune of 10 points in the quarter. The game then went to and fro, as each threatened to pull clear but neither was able.
That was until the final 4 minutes when the New Zealanders took control, bossing the boards and finishing with class inside and out as they finally put the Venezuelan's away for good to notch a first win the in tournament.
Best for the Kiwis was Corey Webster who again led all scorers as he has done throughout the tour, with 22 points on 8 of 14 shooting, including 5 from long range. He received good support from Reuben Te Rangi with 13 points on 5 of 10, including a trio of treys, while Isaac Fotu was a machine on the boards (14) and contributed 8 points in another strong all-round performance, with Everard Bartlett also chipping in with 8 key points.
They play Mexico tonight.
The Tall Blacks tour is part of their preparations for this month's Oceania Olympic qualifying series against Australia.