MBO Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare took the chance in the second and final warm up scrimmage ahead of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers to further focus on his team’s own systems in the closed doors game against Qatar in Doha tonight, winning 98-72.
Henare was pleased with the work from his team, not just tonight, but over the past few days of training and the two scrimmages against Qatar.
“There was a lot to like in both games and of course, there are areas to work on. But the players have certainly improved over the five days, with the two games a chance to put some of that hard work into practice.
“Tomorrow is another day of hard work though, with the game against Syria and the travel to Beirut and then back to Rotorua, it really is the last chance for us to work hard on the training floor and refine our systems before the intensity ramps up in the qualifiers.”
Qatar are themselves preparing for their own games in the final pool of Asian qualifying, starting with Australia on the 13th, and they played with plenty of intensity and shot the ball superbly from deep in the first half, staying within a dozen at halftime, down 40-52.
Rob Loe had the hot hand for the Kiwis in the opening half, with three triples ensuring they had the measure of their hosts, despite Qatar shooting the three at a good clip themselves. Isaac Fotu was going to work inside, with 10 first-half points.
Dion Prewster gave the Tall Blacks momentum in the second half, with a drive through traffic for a tough layup followed by a block at the defensive end as the New Zealanders showed their intent to play at pace and force the issue at both ends of the floor.
Loe emerged from the bench late in the third and quickly made a steel and another two long range shots to extend the lead to 18, the Cairns big man was being left alone on the arc and was making Qatar pay.
Ethan Rusbatch then got in on the act, with four second half triples of his own and the lead extended to beyond 20, the Bay Hawks shooting guard would finish with a team high 18 points.
Loe is enjoying the time in camp but knows that the intensity will lift in the actual qualifiers.
“It is good to get a few hit-outs right before the real thing starts this week. The team has played well, we have some things to work on, but we are excited for the first game in Beirut.
“Pauli put in a new system in the last window and it is great for us, everyone is involved, and it is fun to be a part of it. I have always loved being a part of the Tall Blacks culture and this team, this is a great opportunity for us in this window.
“These were just practice games and we wanted to work on things and we did. We have two or three days left to prepare to be firing on all cylinders against Syria and then back home in Rotorua against Lebanon.”
While Loe is focused first on Syria in Beirut, he like the others on the team is already excited about another home game in this FIBA World Cup qualifying programme, against a quality team in the shape of Lebanon.
“It is always exciting to play at home, in years past we never really got the chance, so we are really excited to get home. Lebanon is a good team and will be looking for the win as well, we need the fans at home to support us for sure.”
The minutes were shared around with the game in Beirut top of mind for Henare, with the entire roster getting an equal share of court time as the days start to run out ahead of the clash with Syria in Beirut and the long journey home to face Lebanon in Rotorua.
The New Zealanders will spend tomorrow in Doha, with two final practice sessions before flying to Beirut on the 11th to put the finishing touches on their preparation for the game on the 13th local time, before then heading home to play Lebanon in Rotorua on September 17.
MBO Tall Blacks 98 (Rusbatch 18, Loe 17, Fotu 13, Ili 12)
Qatar 72 (Tanai 24)
FIBA World Cup Qualifying
Along with China and Korea, New Zealand has crossed over into Group E, carrying points from their earlier group with them (5 wins, 1 loss), and will play home and away games against Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Group F contains Australia, Iran, Philippines, Japan, Kazakhstan and Qatar.
The top three teams in each of the two final groups will qualify for China 2019, along with the best fourth placed team from the two final groups. Complicating the process is that China, as hosts of the World Cup, do not count in the final placings, but will continue to play out their remaining matches.
CLICK HERE for group standings and link to all remaining games
MBO Tall Blacks World Cup Qualifying
v Syria, September 13, Beirut, 5pm tip off local time
v Lebanon, September 17, Rotorua, 7pm tip off, tickets at www.ticketmaster.co.nz
Guards: Shea Ili, SKYCITY Breakers; Jarrod Kenny, Cairns Taipans; Ethan Rusbatch, Bay Hawks; Tai Webster, Galatasaray (Turkey);
Forwards: Reuben Te Rangi, Brisbane Bullets; Dion Prewster, Bay Hawks; Jordan Ngatai, SKYCITY Breakers; Isaac Fotu, Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany); Finn Delany, SKYCITY Breakers; Mika Vukona, Brisbane Bullets;
Centres: Rob Loe, Cairns Taipans; Tohi Smith-Milner, Melbourne United
Head Coach: Paul Henare
Assistant Coaches: Pero Cameron, Mike Fitchett
Physiotherapist: Anousith Bouaaphone
Massage Therapist: Shelley Moana Hiha
Manager: Andrew Dewhurst
MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND TWO
Date | Opponents | Home/Away
- AWAY: 13 Sep 2018 vs Syria, Nouhad Nawfal Stadium, Zouk Mikael, Lebanon
- HOME: 17 Sep 2018 vs Lebanon, Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. Tip off 7pm
- HOME: 29 Nov 2018 vs Jordan, Horncastle Arena, Christchurch
- HOME: 2 Dec 2018 vs Syria, TSB Bank Arena, Wellington
- AWAY: 21 or 22 Feb 2019 vs Lebanon in Lebanon
- AWAY: 24 or 25 Feb 2019 vs Jordan in Jordan
MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND ONE
Date | Opponents | Home/Away
- 23 Nov 2017 vs Korea at TSB Bank Arena, Wellington. Tall Blacks lost 80-86
- 26 Nov 2017 vs Hong Kong at Southourn Stadium, Hong Kong. Tall Blacks won 133-74
- 23 Feb 2018 vs China at Dongguan Basketball Centre, China. Tall Blacks won 82-73
- 26 Feb 2018 vs Korea at Jamsil Gymnasium, Seoul, South Korea. Tall Blacks won 93-84
- 28 Jun 2018 vs Hong Kong at Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. Tall Blacks won 124-65
- 1 Jul 2018 vs China vs Spark Arena, Auckland. Tall Blacks won 67-57
• Learn more about the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers (Asia Zone) here.
• Tall Blacks supporters gear can be purchased here.
• Follow the Tall Blacks’ social media channels: @TallBlacks Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Hashtags: #TuKaha #TallBlacks #FIBAWC #ThisIsMyHouse
• Tall Blacks website
• Read about Tu Kaha and the Tall Blacks culture
• The games will be broadcast live by the Host Broadcaster, Maori Television.
Watch the Tu Kaha webisode series on the Tall Blacks here.