Perfect start for Tall Ferns in Olympic qualifiers

By Te Ao - Māori News

The Tall Ferns have made an impressive start to the Olympic Qualifying series last night in Auckland, hammering the Philippines 111-54 at Trusts Arena.

Led by captain Kalani Purcell, the Tall Ferns led at the end of every quarter to record a heavy victory. At the end of the first the gap was only 24-17, but in the second the home side shot out to a 60-28 lead.

The Tall Ferns enjoyed good production from Tessa Boagni and Penina Davidson who led the New Zealand scoring with 16 points apiece. There were also major contributions from the experienced trio of Ashleigh Karaitiana (13 points and 9 rebounds), Toni Farnworth (12 points) and Natalie Taylor (11 points).

Karaitiana had the honour of pushing the Tall Ferns score beyond the 100 mark. Another milestone was achieved when every player in the squad contributed to the final score.

“I expected that everyone would be nervous so credit to everyone who came out and put a lot of energy into our defence to blow the nerves off and start the game in a positive way,” said Tall Ferns coach Guy Molloy.

“Credit to the Philippines who battled away despite being outsized because it is difficult. We had the opportunity to play them twice earlier this year so we were able to put a better game plan in place.

“This game was over at half time on the back of our ability to run and play good defence. So it’s a credit to our players how hard they have worked in the interim to get into better shape between Asia Cup and now,” he said.

“We really tried to work on our defence to try and get a transition game and I think we did that pretty well. It was nice to be in front of friends and family, and you can sort of see them out of the corner of your eye which I don’t think any of us have had the opportunity to do very often,” said Purcell.

In the other match, South Korea upset heavyweights China 81-80. The four teams are all vying for a place in the final Olympic qualifying series in February, with the top sides then advancing on to Tokyo in July.

The Tall Ferns play China tomorrow at 5:30pm, then Korea on Sunday at the same time at the Trusts Arena in Henderson.